MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The first round of teams started to arrive Christmas night, and more are making their way to the Myrtle Beach Area Convention Center Thursday morning for the Beach Ball Classic.
Sixteen teams from across the Carolinas, Georgia, Ohio, New York, Virginia, Maryland, and even Toronto are traveling to the beach to play it out on the court. The teams this year are expected to bring in big crowds of college coaches for recruiting and also crowds of fans. There will be an average of about six games a day, and this year organizers are sticking to the Sunday Showdown, where there will be a 3-point shoot out and a slam dunk contest.
But it's not just about the game, for our area it's also about business. For the next five days, many of the 320 players, plus thousands of families and fans will be spending time and money in the Grand Strand.
"They want to be a part of the community when they're here," explained Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, the Executive Director of the Beach Ball Classic. "They want to see what's going on because for so many of those kids and their families, it's their first time visit to Myrtle Beach. And we get a lot of repeats back in the summer for vacation from this."
The Classic starts Thursday afternoon with the first game at 1:45 p.m., and the tournament will last through New Year's Eve. But you could call it game time for all of the Grand Strand. The basketball games kick off a round of different sporting events during the winter and early spring.
The convention center will be busy hosting volleyball tournaments and dance competitions. Outdoors things are expected to be pretty busy too, with big marathons like the Myrtle Beach Marathon and the Divas Half Marathon in North Myrtle Beach. Plus the different softball and baseball tournaments in Grand Park by the Market Common. With these events bringing in thousands of people to the Grand Strand in the off season, it will be an even bigger focus next year.
Rhodes says sports tourism has already brought in more than $100 million to the Grand Strand, and next year he wants to beat that score.
"Finish up 13 and kick off 14. So it brings people the opportunity to be more aware of the importance of sports tourism to our community."
At these coming events, city officials plan to start showing off the soon to be newest sports tourism amenity, the indoor sports facility. The convention center expansion project was recently named The Myrtle Beach Sports Center, and that way it will have a busy season once the building is ready in 2015.
If you'd like to join the crowds at the convention center for the Beach Ball Classic tournament, it's $15 for reserve seats and $12 for general admission.