Puerto Rico Tip-Off kicks off Thursday at the HTC Center

Puerto Rico Tip-Off kicks off Thursday at the HTC Center

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – The Puerto Rico Tip-Off kicks off Thursday at the HTC Center at Coastal Carolina University, and local hotels are excited for the economic boost this tournament will bring to our area.

The tournament was relocated to the Myrtle Beach area after Hurricane Maria tore ripped through Puerto Rico. The tournament is usually held on the island every year, but organizers had to find an alternate location this year.

Dan Shoemaker, who launched the tournament, says the organizers of the tournament have many strong relationships with the people in the Myrtle Beach area, making it a suitable location to which to move.

"We wanted to go someplace where there was an ocean from the players' standpoint," Shoemaker said. "We want the events to be great experiences for the players and Myrtle Beach was absolutely an ideal location for us."

One of the hotels that offered travel packages to fans coming to our area is the Sheraton at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Director of Sales, Alberto Semidei, said the tournament being moved to our area is a wonderful thing for revenue. "Economically, it's wonderful for Myrtle Beach," he said. "It's been wonderful for us, and it's wonderful for our partners, and it's bringing a nice amount of welcome revenue into the area," he said.

But the effects that Puerto Rico are feeling during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria hit closer to home for Semidei. He was born in Puerto Rico and some of his family still lives there.

“It touches me personally from that aspect,” Semidei said. His family survived the hurricane, but are still working to recover from what they lost.

"We're very privileged and very happy – there has been loss of course of property, but that being said, we're not worrying about that right now," he said.

Semidei isn't the only one with the lost property on his mind. Those taking part in organizing the event, including the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, are working to lend a helping hand out to recovering Puerto Rico.

"We're going to be collecting canned goods and toys for the people of Fajardo and we're excited to really be able to give back to their community," said Rachel Ammon, Marketing Specialist for MBACC. "Since we're hosting the tournament here, we wanted to make sure they were taken care of in some way."

"The devastation is beyond anything that people have seen before," Shoemaker said.

Organizers like Shoemaker are working to do something meaningful for Puerto Rico and are hoping to announce some initiatives at some point throughout the course of the tournament.

"What we hope to do is use this event to really let people know that Puerto Rico still needs a lot of help. It's going to be a long recovery process," Shoemaker added.

However, Semidei said he is just happy that Puerto Rico's tournament will continue this year. "At least we were able to salvage something wonderful," he said.

Tip-off is Thursday at 11:30 a.m. between South Carolina and Illinois.

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