MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The City of Myrtle Beach has put a focus on building up sports tourism. The numbers from 2014 are in: sports tourism brought in big bucks last year- almost $156 million in direct economic spending.
"I think the numbers back up what we've said for the last few years about sports tourism," says Mark Kruea, City of Myrtle Beach spokesman. "You may not realize that when all those bus loads of kids and parents come into town, how much economic impact they have. But 156 million dollars of direct spending- that's a significant contribution to our economy."
That's up about $30 million over 2013. Those numbers represent every estimated dollar a tourist spent in town for a sporting event. It's in part because Myrtle Beach has so many facilities - Grand Park Athletic Complex, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium and The Ripken Experience, among others. "We will look to add more people because we've got the facilities to do that," says Kruea.
The biggest money makers- cheer and dance competitions combined, brought in over $50 million. Those are key in boosting local businesses in the slower month of March, they accounted for about $11 million last year in that month alone.
And many events come back every year. Baseball tournaments brought in just under $50 million last year.
Other big contributors include fast and slow pitch softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball and running events. "The business community has discovered all the benefits of sports tourism," Kruea says. "The light bulb went off and they said 'Oh, there are busloads of people coming into town'. Families coming in to play sports or cheer, or to run one of the track events, and they're beginning to catch on and market to those young people and their families."
The good news is the city expects that number to increase drastically from now on, with the opening of the indoor myrtle beach sports center. The first event there is March 7 and it's already set to bring in significant business this year.