MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – The Myrtle Beach Invitational will not be held along the Grand Strand in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to information from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the news follows a decision by the NCAA Division I Council to move the start date for men’s basketball from Nov. 15 to Nov. 25, “and the continued concerns about hosting sporting events during the pandemic.”
“ESPN Events continues to evaluate the next steps for their owned and operated events, which includes the Myrtle Beach Invitational, as conferences make decisions on their seasons,” a statement from the MBACC read in part.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce estimates the Myrtle Beach Invitational brings in $2 million in sports tourism.
One local restaurant is certain it will feel the impact of not having the event this year.
“It was a great gig," said Tongy’s Shmack House bartender Jesse Kerr. "We made a lot of money, a lot of business. A lot of families liked to come in and get some food before they watched the players play. It was great for business.”
Kerr was bartending at Tongy’s Shmack House last November when the restaurant hosted several Division I basketball teams and their fans.
Those teams were in Conway for the Myrtle Beach Invitational at Coastal Carolina University.
“The first two years of the tournament, we’ve had West Virginia play in the first year, which was great because there are so many West Virginians that come to Myrtle Beach," said Visit Myrtle Beach Executive Director of Sports Tourism Jonathan Paris. "That was really popular and very successful.”
The invitational used to be held in Puerto Rico, but after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria, the invitational moved to Coastal Carolina’s HTC Center and has stayed there ever since.
This year’s line-up included large D1 programs like Nebraska, Pitt and Missouri.
That was until the NCAA decided to move the start date for men’s basketball back from November 15th to the 25th.
“That technically falls after the Myrtle Beach Invitational was set to be played this year, and there’s obviously continued concerns around hosting sporting events during this coronavirus pandemic," said Paris.
ESPN Events told the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce the invitational won’t be played at CCU this year.
Which means Kerr and the team at Tongy’s won’t see any of the business that comes with it.
“We always look forward to the basketball crowd, and the SEC coming through," said Kerr. "The tailgates, whatever they want to do. It’s definitely going to slow down a bit. I don’t know how much it’s going to affect business, but it’s definitely going to take a toll.”
An announcement from ESPN Events will be forthcoming on the status of these tournaments, chamber officials said.
“While we are disappointed that the Myrtle Beach Invitational will not be played in Myrtle Beach as planned, we recognize that adjustments are being made for all sporting events this year,” said Karen Riordan, MBACC president and CEO. “This change is not a reflection of our community, it is simply another unfortunate loss because of ongoing concerns with the virus. We have a strong, positive relationship with ESPN and look forward to welcoming the Invitational back to Myrtle Beach in 2021.”