MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The Myrtle Beach Sports Center is on schedule for completion in March 2015, just in time for the first scheduled event on March 7.
So far, the complex has signed contracts for over 21 events through August, for sports including gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, and pickle ball.
“It's been a lot of interest, a lot of people calling and everything from ‘hey can I get a job there' or ‘hey I want to bring an event there'," says Mark Beale, with the Myrtle Beach Sports Complex. "So it sparks a lot of other interest.”
And Beale expects interest to go way up once the sports center is officially open. “A lot of times it's kind of this thing where people see this building, they know it's coming, but they don't really trust the opening date. And a lot of people are going to start coming forward and wanting to put their events in this building once it gets open.”
The floors are now finished, all 72,000 square feet of hardwood flooring. Currently, construction crews are ahead of where they thought they would be. Weather should no longer impact construction, because the majority of the work left to do is inside.
In the main sports area, there is room for eight basketball courts that can be divided into 16 volleyball courts or into four college basketball courts. The site can also be used as one massive open space or subdivided into eight spaces with curtains in between. There is also going to be a big open lobby with a concession stand, restrooms, informational kiosks, and an indoor/outdoor eating area.
The city of Myrtle Beach is used to hosting huge basketball tournaments in town, taking up 25 school courts at a time. But now the complex could house all or most of the games.
The Sports Center is here to support the community, and in turn it needs community support. There are opportunities for business sponsorships. For example, there will be a huge flat screen monitor out in the front lobby and digital kiosks rotating the different local sponsors. They will also show things to see, and places to go, and restaurants to try in the Myrtle Beach area. There will even be coupons you can print.
"That lobby is going to have a lot of activity. Because if your son plays at one and he plays at three, when he's done at two he's not going to leave and try to get back by three. He's going to be in that lobby kind of scouring around. And the family is saying, 'Hey, where are we going to eat for dinner?' And all that information will be available to them,” says Beale.
The center has more than $180,000 in signed contracts for sponsorships for their first year. For a three-year total, they're up to almost $400,000.
There will be five full-time staff who will run the complex. But they've also struck a partnership with HGTC and hired part-time workers to help with all the events.
The Grand Strand is growing as a sport tourism destination. And the North Myrtle Beach Outdoor Sports Complex has helped to bring in those new visitors.
Since opening in March 2014, the complex has hosted about 50 sporting events this year. That's 1,300 teams that have visited the area to play everything from baseball, soccer, softball, ultimate frisbee, to quidditch.
Leaders say the community tie is what has helped their success. They're not just about sporting events, they're more of a community destination. The complex also has concerts at the amphitheater, community events, dog parks, playgrounds and trails.
And it's definitely had an impact in the North Myrtle Beach community. They're seeing 40% more participation from the local and visiting youth. And bringing more families to the area for sports is also bringing more business to the area. The complex's leaders say they're looking for that momentum to keep growing.
"These facilities play such a large role in our local economy. Even if people don't use the facility, they're bringing people to town. And they're bringing that economic impact that we need here in the Grand Strand,” Matt Gibbons, with the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex.
Looking into 2015, they're already excited for some big events coming up. There will be a spring training ultimate frisbee event that will bring about 200 college teams to the area in the month of March. Then there's also the softball spring training event that is coming back for a second year. That will bring in another 60 to 70 teams in March.
The City of Myrtle Beach says the "very conservative" estimate at this point is for the complex to bring in at least 7 million dollars, probably more in its first year.