MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Thousands of cheerleaders and other athletes are descending upon the Grand Strand to compete for top trophies. But with so many competitors and their families coming to town, the City of Myrtle Beach takes home the cash prize.
"We came here last year," said cheer-mom Bonnie Derkack. "We completely loved it, and are back for more."
Sports tourism is still a fledgling market in the Grand Strand, but businesses and city leaders say it is a huge benefit to the area because annually, a guaranteed number of competitors, who often bring several family members with them.
"Last year was just a girls' trip," said Cheer mom Tammy Stevens. "This year we brought along our husbands and the siblings to show them Myrtle Beach."
Retailers, hotels and residents often receive the direct benefits of big sporting events, but city and business leaders say the entire city benefits through the tax revenue generated from visiting competitors.
In one day, Lulu's Cafe cleared $1000, and owner Misty Pate-Coan attributes much of the business from visiting cheerleaders who came to the restaurant the year before.
"We always come here," said cheerleader Amber Geroe. "We've got 16 cheerleaders, but the middle school's here, too. So that's 25."
In one day, Lulu's generated $115 for the city, county and state through prepared foods taxes. That amount could more than double with more cheerleaders coming in Saturday. Accommodations taxes also generate thousands for the city, and city spokesperson Mark Kruea says much of that revenue goes back to local schools, and beach and storm water improvements.
In 2012, Kruea says the sports tourism generated $132 Million for the city.