MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – With the rising number of locals and tourists across the Grand Strand comes a growing push to bring a permanent ice rink to the area.
Right now, the closest ice skating rink is in Wilmington, N.C., about an hour away from Myrtle Beach.
Steve Elias, the general manager of Grand Strand Ice Management, has been working to bring a permanent ice rink facility to the Grand Strand since 2010.
Elias helped put together the seasonal ice rink in 2014 and 2015 at the Myrtle Beach Mall. It was the first time there was ever an all-indoor public ice rink in Myrtle Beach and it exceeded management's expectations.
Back in 2014, Elias met with Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus and former Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes about the possibility of a public-private venture because anyone that would invest in a rink would have to invest millions of dollars.
To put the price into perspective, a single-sheet ice rink costs roughly $5 million dollars on the high end and a double-sheet ice rink is about $10 million.
There was a concern about community support, but Elias conducted surveys through his website, Grand Strand Ice Management, and said about 20,000 people expressed interest in an ice-related facility in the area.
With the Winter Olympics kicking off this week, Elias expects another spike in interest, making this the perfect peak season for ice-related activities.
"Everyone is looking for something in this community to do in the winter time. There's no doubt that our area knock it out of the park when it comes to summer-time tourists. Every year they are increasing their numbers; you guys are reporting on how more people coming through the airport every year. So those are positive signs of people coming in and doing things in the Grand Strand during the normal tourist season. In the winter time we need to try to be able to bring more things in, whether it's an ice hockey tournament, figure skating tournament, curling tournament," Elias said.
"There's people that come up to us every day and are like, 'Man, I wish there was a rink close to us because we would love to see you play,' but the rink is just too far," said Matthew Kinchla, a club hockey team member at Coastal Carolina University.
Kinchla joined the CCU club hockey team as a freshman. They need to travel to Wilmington in order to practice and play their home games.
"Some of the disadvantages, we don't get any fans at our games," Kinchla said. "Also, it's hard because we are students and having to drive that far, it makes doing homework hard, going to class hard."
The club hockey team only gets to practice about once a week. Most schools have access to rinks either on campus or close enough to practice every single morning.
Kinchla believes a local rink would also be an attraction for the area as a whole.
"It doesn't just stop at hockey. There's figure skating, curling, public skating, stick time and even "Disney on Ice" would be big," he said. "There's just so many opportunities in the community as far as youth hockey, high school hockey, even Coastal could get a figure skating team, curling team."
Elias is still actively seeking investors to consider the possibility of building an ice rink in the Grand Strand.