CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – The 2017 Puerto Rico Tip-Off event originally scheduled to take place in Fajardo, Puerto Rico will potentially be relocated to Coastal Carolina University in Conway due to the devastation left to the commonwealth by Hurricane Maria.
The games are expected be played from Thursday, November 16 through Sunday Nov. 19 at the HTC Center, according to a news release from ESPN Events.
Mike Anderson, the director of the Myrtle Beach Regional Sports Alliance, said ESPN's announcement may be "almost premature." He said there are some parts of the deal that still need to be worked out, but he's optimistic it will get done.
ESPN staff members will arrived in the Grand Strand Thursday night, and Anderson will give them a tour of the area's hotels, restaurants, and the venue on Friday.
"We really hope this happens, but we're still working on it," Anderson said.
At this time, there is no contract or agreement in writing. Anderson was told by ESPN that Orlando and Atlantic City are still in consideration for replacement venues for the tournament.
"Tomorrow, we can resolidify we want them here and they want to be here," Anderson added. "We just need to make sure we're using public dollars wisely and getting a return, while being sensitive to the situation in Puerto Rico."
Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said this type of event would normally take months of planning, but in this case, they have just days.
According to Dean, large-scale events such as the Puerto Rico Tip-Off require not only accommodating players in hotels, but also officials, TV crew members and coaches.
He added that organizers must also be sure that hotels have large-enough rooms to accommodate team meetings.
Even with all those factors considered, Dean said he's confident Myrtle Beach will be able to handle this type of event because of its success handling similar tournaments in the past.
Dean also said he expects something to be finalized within a week to 10 days.
An announcement made Thursday morning by ESPN Events gave the impression that the Myrtle Beach area was definitively selected as the tournament venue.
"The representatives of Myrtle Beach and Coastal Carolina University have graciously opened their doors to accommodate the 11th annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and we are fortunate to be able to relocate this event to another wonderful destination," said Pete Derzis, ESPN senior vice president of college sports programming and events.
The men's basketball teams playing at this year's event include Appalachian State, Boise State, Illinois State, Iowa State, South Carolina, Tulsa, UTEP and Western Michigan, the release states.
"The aftermath of the hurricane has caused an immense hardship to the island, and our thoughts are with the people of Puerto Rico during this difficult time," Derzis said. "We are hopeful to be able to return next year to Puerto Rico, where our teams have enjoyed the warm hospitality and rich culture of Puerto Rico for nearly a decade."
Earlier this year, the ACC Women's Basketball Tournament had to be relocated from Greensboro, North Carolina to the HTC Center in Conway because of the controversy surrounding the transgender bathroom bill at the time.
ESPN officials said the area having hosted that big event played a role in them choosing CCU as the possible host site.
CCU Athletic Director Matt Hogue expressed that the university is pleased to help amid the disaster that struck Puerto Rico.
"On behalf of our entire University, we are pleased to assist in providing a location for this season's Puerto Rico Tip-Off," Hogue said. "Most importantly, we continue to send our prayers and support to the island of Puerto Rico and look forward to our friends in the Caribbean rebuilding and resuming the hosting of their tournament. We welcome the participating teams and student athletes here in November and look forward to providing them a quality experience."
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes expressed what a privilege it is to help host this event.
"The City of Myrtle Beach is pleased to host the Puerto Rico Tip-Off," said John Rhodes, mayor of Myrtle Beach. "Being a resort on the Atlantic Coast, we understand what happens to a city that has been hit by a major hurricane, and it is our privilege to be asked to help our neighbors in Puerto Rico during this difficult time. We appreciate the opportunity to have eight outstanding national universities, including the University of South Carolina, enjoy the hospitality of our beautiful city. We'd also ask that everyone support the efforts in Puerto Rico as they cope with the devastating damage of Hurricane Maria."
More information on the Puerto Rico Tip-Off can be found on its website here: http://espnevents.com/puerto-rico-tip-off/