Convention Center to add $3 parking charge

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Free parking at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center is coming to an end. Convention Center officials announced Wednesday they will begin charging $3 per vehicle.

The change, according to MBCC General Manager Paul Edwards, will take effect sometime in fiscal year 2010-11, which begins on July 1. Edwards said the per-vehicle charge will only affect drivers during events, noting that other facilities already charge in Myrtle Beach and other cities, and often more than $3.

Free parking has been a staple of the Myrtle beach Convention Center since it opened. A portion of the center's budget has been set up to collect parking fees since its expansion in 1993, however, Edwards says officials opted not to charge.

Edwards says the plan is only in its beginning stages, and they have not yet nailed down how they will collect the fees, which are expected to generate $500,000 to $700,00 in additional yearly revenue. Edwards said they expect about 20 percent of that would go to operating costs for collecting the fee.

With annual costs for maintaining and operating the center topping $4 million, Edwards said the money from the parking fee will help.

The Sheraton Hotel, which is run separately from the center, has been charging guests to park in the hotel's parking garage, Edwards said. However, he added, the hotel gets money from the Horry County tourism tax to offset costs, but the convention center does not.

Sheraton spokeswoman Susan Hines noted the hotel's fee for using the parking garaged increased from $5 to $7 on April 1.

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