NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The three newest fields at Grand Park in Myrtle Beach obviously can be used for softball, or baseball, but they were designed with artificial turf to make them great for other sports too. However, until late last week only a few games of soccer have kept the fields from being used exclusively as softball/baseball fields since they opened almost a year ago.
Late last week is when collegiate lacrosse teams from several states began using the fields for spring training. As the players continue practice and scrimmage games this week, it is a sign that the fields are finally living up to the multi-use potential that was always planned.
College players of a different type have also taken over Central Park in North Myrtle Beach. About 500 players are in town for a tournament over a three-week period. The city of North Myrtle Beach renovated the park specifically to attract the tournament, and others in the future.
"We felt like we had a great plan, and it would be a great park, but until you actually have it up and running and hear people's comments you're always a little unsure," said the city's athletics director Matt Gibbons.
So far those comments indicate North Myrtle Beach has hit a home run
"It's absolutely gorgeous," commented Kara Jo Egelsky. "I've played a lot of places playing softball, and this is one of the nicest places. It's up there. It's probably the nicest I've ever played on."
Egelsky said facilities like Central Park make her team want to come back again, and that's exactly what city leaders hope for - even better if they bring family. The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce estimates each person spends nearly a hundred dollars a day including hotel costs.
Parent Jeff Eck agreed with that estimate. He said he was impressed with North Myrtle Beach enough to also bring more family members when his daughter's team returns next year.
"She has younger brothers and sisters that I would bring for them to do other things here," Eck said.
At the Krave Bagel shop near Central Park, Kim Greene said months ago she was not really sure if the park renovations would make much difference. Now she is convinced it is good for local businesses after seeing about 50 customers from the tournament.
"In addition to the teams, you have all the families that are coming to watch, and it's definitely drawing a little bit of a crowd," Green said.
Softball tournament organizer Bob Gentile said his company is committed to bringing more sporting events to the North Myrtle Beach over the next five years. He said if the city decides to build a new complex to accommodate additional sports he would expect it to do well.
In Myrtle Beach there are already plans to expand Grand Park with more fields this year.