Sports tourism growing on the Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - High school players from around the country are competing against each other in one of the premiere events in high school: The Beach Ball Classic, held every year at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

In its 32nd year, the Beach Ball Classic brings 16 teams from around the nation here to Myrtle Beach. The high school players on the court aren't only being introduced to college scouts, they're also being introduced to everything the Grand Strand has to offer.

"As far as sports tourism goes, the Beach Ball Classic is one of the first that had an impact on the community," explains Mayor John Rhodes.

It impacts local businesses, especially during a slow, shoulder-season.

"We've been able to build on the shoulder month so the week after Christmas has become very big," Mayor Rhodes says.

Building up the shoulder-season helps local businesses that struggle during the off-season and helps turn our area into a destination for tournaments.

"We're building the facilities, providing the locations for people to bring their teams to Myrtle Beach," Mayor Rhodes adds.

The Mayor says this year the City of Myrtle Beach brought in over $100,000,000 in sports tourism.

"Sports tourism is up there with the Golf Industry, and we're looking forward to it becoming even greater," Mayor Rhodes says.

It has the potential of being a year-round industry because of our mild weather and the available facilities to host different events.

"We're averaging 3,500 people a night with up to 4,000 during the last two nights," Mayor Rhodes expects.

Those thousands of visitors bring thousands of dollars to our local economy.

"It brings people in making our sales off the charts," says Danielle Powell, a server at Travinia Italian Kitchen in the Market Common.

From restaurants to movie theaters and retail shops, local businesses see the increase in their numbers during this tournament.

"We get people coming into town when usually people aren't traveling," Powell explains.

The mayor says the impact of the tournament goes far beyond the court.

"We get an opportunity to introduce Myrtle Beach to someone who has never been here before, and have them come back in the summer," Mayor Rhodes says.

Mayor Rhodes believes there is no doubt the Beach Ball Classic helps our local economy and is already planning the next big event. A volleyball tournament during Martin Luther King Day will bring hundreds of teams to our area.

The mayor says it is another example of how sports tourism is a year-round deal for our area.

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