NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF)- The Sports Parks and Recreation complex in North Myrtle Beach officially opened this weekend, and hundreds of people took advantage of Sunday's weather to check it out.
Seventeen collegiate girls softball teams will be the first of many to run onto the multiple fields.
"It's better than anything we've got around home," expressed Frank Gabehart. Gabehart and his family traveled to North Myrtle Beach from Illinois for his daughter's softball tournament.
City Manager Mike Mahaney says that this park will help the local economy and extend tourist attraction to the area.
"The goal is to expand those shoulder seasons, because you will be having soccer and lacrosse and baseball tournaments as well as to provide additional quality of life issues for local residents," Mahaney said.
Parks and Recreation Director John Bullard believes that this park will bring more people to North Myrtle Beach, and if they have a good experience, they will return.
"What we'll be doing is bringing a lot of people here for the first time, and we know once they come here, they have a great experience," Bullard said. "They will return."
While the tournament got Gabehart and his family to the area, the shops, beaches and area surrounding the complex have convinced him to come back.
"It's nice down here, we hope to come back in the summer," he said, explaining this is his first time on the Grand Strand.
The park has more to offer than sports fields. It also has two dog parks, one for big dogs and one for small dogs, and bike trails. Bullard says North Myrtle Beach doesn't have any other dog parks, so people are very excited to be able to bring their dogs out into an open area.
"I think its awesome, laid out great with hills and things he can go play in," said Michelle Bessett while keeping an eye on her dog, Oliver, as he ran around the fenced-in area.
Seventy-five to about a 100 volunteers showed up Tuesday to help clean up the park and get it ready for its many visitors Saturday. They were more than happy to help. Joe Bennett said he really enjoyed giving back to North Myrtle Beach, and hopes to one day bring his grandchildren to the park.
"They have a lot of great activities and it's really great to support this town, because you can kind of see where your tax dollars are going," Bennett said. "A park like this is great, and I don't have any grandkids or anything, but when I do, they'll be coming here."
Bullard estimates the park will "generate an additional $15 to $18 million for our local economy through sports tourism."
Mike Mahaney says that the park has over 70 events planned so far, and the baseball side is already booked through Christmas.