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Spring 2017

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The sun sets on another day of exciting events and competition at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.
The sun sets on another day of exciting events and competition at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.

A Slam Dunk

The crack of the bat, the swish of the net, the sound of a “kill” on the hardwood. The vibrations as feet pound the floor and the roar of a rousing cheer. These all evoke the thrill and excitement of sports.

For the City of Myrtle Beach, there’s a thrill and excitement in helping business and the economy grow. And that’s exactly what’s happening at the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.

When you see the event schedule for the center, you may think it has been around for quite some time. But the venue is actually a rookie, only opening its doors in 2015. While the complex is still considered new, the love for sports along the Grand Strand is certainly not. In fact, a full slate of outdoor sporting events in the area was one thing that helped push the City of Myrtle Beach to build an indoor venue for sports tourism that would complement their busy, world class outdoor sports facilities.

A little pre-race celebration is always on order on packet pick up day.
A little pre-race celebration is always on order on packet pick up day.

The city was watching the sports tourism trend increase and saw the boom that was happening with their outdoor sites. At the same time, they were looking for an opportunity to utilize acreage that had become available for purchase behind the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The discussions about a convention center expansion led them to look at the feasibility of a sports center which would, in a sense, expand the center without duplicating it.

According to Mark Kruea, city information officer for the City of Myrtle Beach, “things moved quickly once the decision was made to move forward with construction on the Myrtle Beach Sports Center. In fact, idea to completion was only about two years.”

The city purchased the land with the help of state grant money and they helped fund the facility with accommodations tax dollars. The center is now a 100,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility that has open court space for eight high school basketball courts, four collegiate /NBA courts, 16 volleyball courts, a viewing mezzanine, four flex rooms, an indoor/outdoor café and a  Smart Room, which provides all the audio and visual equipment you need to make giving a presentation trouble free. There are also an additional 500 parking spaces that can be used for both the sports center and convention center events.

The city owns the building and the land but pays a third-party administrator, Sports Facilities Advisory’s management division (SFM), to handle event scheduling, concessions and revenue for the complex.

Clockwise from top left: The spacious sports center can easily accommodate large exposition events. The sports center may be a rookie but it plays host to veteran events like the Myrtle Beach Marathon expo. The Myrtle Beach Sports Center can expand to accommodate a large event. The Courtside Café gives athletes and spectators fuel for the next game. Clockwise from top left: The spacious sports center can easily accommodate large exposition events. The sports center may be a rookie but it plays host to veteran events like the Myrtle Beach Marathon expo. The Myrtle Beach Sports Center can expand to accommodate a large event. The Courtside Café gives athletes and spectators fuel for the next game. Clockwise from top left: The spacious sports center can easily accommodate large exposition events. The sports center may be a rookie but it plays host to veteran events like the Myrtle Beach Marathon expo. The Myrtle Beach Sports Center can expand to accommodate a large event. The Courtside Café gives athletes and spectators fuel for the next game. Clockwise from top left: The spacious sports center can easily accommodate large exposition events. The sports center may be a rookie but it plays host to veteran events like the Myrtle Beach Marathon expo. The Myrtle Beach Sports Center can expand to accommodate a large event. The Courtside Café gives athletes and spectators fuel for the next game.
Clockwise from top left: The spacious sports center can easily accommodate large exposition events. The sports center may be a rookie but it plays host to veteran events like the Myrtle Beach Marathon expo. The Myrtle Beach Sports Center can expand to accommodate a large event. The Courtside Café gives athletes and spectators fuel for the next game.

Revenue is one important element of the Myrtle Beach Sports Center. The city had originally projected to show a loss into the third year of operation, but most recent projections now forecast a profit in that third year. That is good news for a city that has invested dollars and facilities in the growing sports tourism market.

John Rhodes is more than just the mayor of Myrtle Beach. He is also the self-proclaimed “godfather of sports tourism” for his early support of additional facilities in the city. “Myrtle Beach is probably in the top five sports tourism destinations in the country now, and we are looking to expand and grow our facilities even more. In the last 10 years, we’ve gone from $20 million in economic impact to $187 million per year in 2016. One big advantage we have is the Atlantic Ocean. Having the beach right there gives families something to do other than just sit in their hotel rooms,” said Rhodes.

 

The hardwood floor used for basketball games and volleyball meets can be transformed to a soft spring floor for gymnasts’ barefooted routines.
The hardwood floor used for basketball games and volleyball meets can be transformed to a soft spring floor for gymnasts’ barefooted routines.

Hotel, motel and resort operations, as well as restaurants and other businesses along the Grand Strand, are seeing additional revenue as a result of the influx of athletes, their family members and sports enthusiasts who come to cheer them on. All of those people need somewhere to stay and eat. Many will also enjoy some of the other things Myrtle Beach has to offer while they are in town.

Mark Beale with SFM said their group partners with area businesses and often will have discount packages available for the athletes and their families.

“We partner with restaurants and other locations to drive business to them while these athletes are in town. We see it as a service to the business and those attending the events at the Sports Center,” said Beale.

Shaun Walsh, past president of the 20-year-old Myrtle Beach Marathon, has seen sports tourism explode in Myrtle Beach during that time. The marathon and expo, which was housed in the center for the last two years, brings 7,000 to 10,000 race participants to the Grand Strand for one weekend. Most will make their way to the sports complex during the Thursday and Friday leading up race day.

Like this gymnast, the Myrtle Beach Sports Center provides a perfect balance of function and fun.
Like this gymnast, the Myrtle Beach Sports Center provides a perfect balance of function and fun.

“What began as an off-season tourism builder has turned into an annual event that has about a $4 million impact on the area every year,” said Walsh.

It is apparent the Myrtle Beach Sports Center was a well thought out idea that is helping create revenue for the city and businesses in the area. But what is in it for the kids, athletes, coaches and parents who participate in the events there?

Cheerleading competitions now bring some of the largest crowds to the center, but the city will tell you that volleyball may have been the one sport that really gave the green light on moving forward. And it has not disappointed. There are several large club and travel volleyball tournaments that take place in the sports center each year.

Martha and Jodi Davis help run the Grand Strand Juniors Volleyball Club, which hosts at least one tournament each year. They also have a daughter on the club team.

“Playing in a facility of this caliber brings in large teams from other areas,” said Martha. “That draws college coaches out to view players who would not be seen otherwise.”

Martha said that one look can turn into an opportunity to play at the college level, which would be a huge benefit to the athlete and parent, making all the practice, travel and playing time worth it. 

Brandy Seaus is a volleyball mom from the Greenwood area. Her daughter is a 10th grader who plays on her high school volleyball team and has played club volleyball for four years. She played in the Myrtle Beach Sports Center for the first time in February.

“This is the largest facility we have played in and it is exciting,” said Seaus. “We are investing the time to travel to venues like this to help build my daughter’s skills and make her a better player.”

The Myrtle Beach Sports Center rolled out the red carpet for gymnasts in March.
The Myrtle Beach Sports Center rolled out the red carpet for gymnasts in March.

Preya Simmons, a 10th grader on the Islanders Volleyball team out of Charleston, said she loves the center because it has great equipment and has space for family and fans to watch.  “I got volleyball fever by watching my sister play here,” said Simmons.

Gymnastics is another popular sport at the facility. Thomas Gymnastics, a family-owned company based in Rock Hill with a location in Myrtle Beach, recently hosted the Coastal Classic Gymnastics Invitational at the sports center. That gymnastics competition brings in as many as 1,700 gymnasts that range in age from 5 to 18 years old.

“This is one of the largest competitions on the East Coast,” said Garrett Murray. Murray and his  wife Ashleyanne manage Thomas Gymnastics’ beach location and bring the competition to the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.

“This facility is really a plus for our competitors who are looking to improve their skills. The coaches appreciate using the mezzanine level at the center because it offers a great view of their competitors as well as the competition,” he said.

The Myrtle Beach Sports Center is home to other sports such as wrestling, archery and basketball, and many other hosted competitions, expos and trade show events. And it provides opportunities for children, athletes and rising stars to improve their game and showcase their talents.

In other words, it’s a slam dunk. 

For information on events or to find out how the Myrtle Beach Sports Center can benefit you, go to www.myrtlebeachsportscenter.com.