Opinions mixed from Myrtle Beach city leaders on funding of sports tourism

Opinions mixed from Myrtle Beach city leaders on funding of sports tourism

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Sports tourism as an industry, not counting the Myrtle Beach Sports Center, brings nearly half a million dollars of revenue directly into Myrtle Beach, but it costs the city $1.5 million to support it.

The extra money comes from ATAX funding, but a new pricing structure for the use of outdoor athletic fields passed with the FY17 budget will reduce that by $250,000.

"To what degree do the taxpayers in the community subsidize the operations in the center when you have a promoter that is maybe making a profit on that event?" Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen said.

Starting in January, promoters will pay per player rather than per field. Also, the economic benefit credit they were able to receive will be capped at 25 percent.

Pedersen said some promoters were using the facilities for free in the end after receiving economic benefit credits.

"We've developed a really solid core of business and we thought it was time to start to recognize that by charging what the asset is worth," Pedersen said.

He said he does not think sports tourism will be able to be entirely self-sustaining; however, he said a balance is needed.

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, on the other hand, said the main purpose of sports tourism is the people it brings into the area.

"When we did the facilities, it was not even brought up that it had to pay for itself," he said.

Rhodes said the main local sports groups, who are the foundation of the industry, are not happy with the new pricing. He added one is making plans to have events elsewhere.

"I know that for this group to go to North Myrtle Beach, it was significant," Rhodes said. "I don't want that to happen anymore."

He said sporting events moved to Myrtle Beach from somewhere else over the past several years and they could decide to move back.

"I'm not criticizing our staff for not taking care of a deficit, which is their job, but it's also up to us to look at what we think is the right thing to do and how much of that deficit do we want to reduce," Rhodes said. "We have other areas in the city, things that are provided that we do supplement."

Sports Tourism Director Tim Huber said next year's calendar is still looking strong.

"It's very much a partnership and we have a lot to offer," he said.

Huber said his department had more than 20 meetings over the last month with event organizers to let them know about the changes.

He said those meetings went well, all of the well-established events rebooked and now staff members are starting to work on booking up the rest of the weekends.

"From what we've seen by what the calendar is shaping up like, they've gone very well," Huber said.

He added no industry standard exists for a pricing structure, and felt it will make the facilities more accessible to everyone.

"Things are looking very strong and it's looking like we're going to continue the growth trend," Huber said.

City council members will have until next June to decide if they should continue to increase the fees each year.

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