CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - The VisitMyrtleBeach.Com Big South Championships are officially underway. It's thrilling for locals to cheer on our hometown Chanticleers and also a great revenue boost for local businesses with so many sports fans in town. Grand Strand leaders are trying to make sure the Big South Championships doesn't move out of our area when the tournament's contract runs out next year.
There has never been a permanent home for the Big South Championships. The men's and women's tournaments typically move around to different universities within the conference. But Grand Strand leaders say their goal all along has been to make the tournaments here at CCU so great, they lead to a long-term extension with the Big South.
"When we first bid this tournament, it was our hope that we could become the permanent location for the tournament," says Brad Dean, the President of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
The conference already tacked on an extra year last year- making VisitMyrtleBeach.com and CCU hosts through 2016.
It's only the second time in conference history the men's and women's tournaments will stay at the same location 4 years straight. And it seems tournament attendees agree with the decision. "So far the ticket sales are far ahead of pace for last year," according to Dean.
Aside from the joy Chants' fans get from going down the street to watch their team compete, Dean says it's a huge bonus for the entire region, "We get the economic benefit but also the national publicity that it brings."
Just how much economic benefit can it really amount to? "The impact depends on how many people come and which teams stay here through the weekend, but it's certainly in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in impact," Dean says. "And the real publicity impact is several million dollars, not only on national television but the national coverage that comes with it."
And when it comes to tourism, March is a slow month, and week days are the slowest. The tournaments get paying visitors opening their pockets around town all day and in the evenings when their team isn't playing.
"The tournament attracts several thousand people from the three-state region, as well as a lot of onlookers who are excited about basketball, and of course this kicks off March Madness with a little bit of Myrtle Madness," Dean continues.
Mark Simpson, communication liaison with the Big South Conference said a panel will begin looking at who the new new tournament host will be in May. Simpson said, "Everything is on the table in regards to making the Big South Basketball Championship a remarkable and world class event, which would include the consideration of a permanent location. Our leadership will make that final determination as it relates to the best interests of the Championship, but we are very open to that exploration."