Big South Tournament brings thousands to the Grand Strand

Big South basketball tournament underway in the Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The Big South Basketball Tournament is underway in the Grand Strand, but there could be a "chill" on how successful the event will be this year.

Normally, this wouldn't be a good time to be in the area. Rainy weather and cold temperatures usually leave it empty when it comes to tourists. But thanks to the Big South, people still have high hopes.

Tournament-goers can't ignore the weather.

"We woke up and it was an 18 chill factor," exclaimed Marilyn Williams, who traveled from Batesburg, South Carolina. "Now we wouldn't be here if it weren't for the games."

But to Williams, the trip is still a great birthday present.

"I love basketball," explained Williams. "I love it. I don't know a team. I don't know no one on it, but I enjoy coming out to a basketball game."

Williams' trip also had the goal of also turning into a Myrtle Beach vacation. "We stay here," she said. "We usually get a condo, stay for the whole week."

That's usually the plan for the more than 26,000 people who travel to the area for the tournament. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber estimated last year, the Big South Tournament scored about $3 million in economic impacts in the Grand Strand, because there's plenty more to do here than just sit in the stands.

"We'll go out, do a little shopping, then come for the game at 6," said Williams, "and stay until the last game, then go get us something to eat."

Organizers just hope it's enough to keep more fans here despite the weather, or at least encourage folks to grab a rain check.

"The weather is a downfall," said Christina Lazarus, one of the organizers of the tournament. "But, they'll come back when it's warm, and that's the goal. We want to show them a great time."

Williams says she'll be back, as long as that great time is inside, next to the court. "I'll be here next year," she said. "God willing, I'll be right here."

Local businesses are also providing incentives. Many restaurants and attractions are offering 25 percent off discounts, and hotels are offering credits for another stay at a future date. Brad Dean with the chamber says this year's goal is to have an economic impact of between $4 to $5 million.

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