MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Sports tourism is no secret throughout the Grand Strand.
During the 2017 calendar year, Myrtle Beach saw a $187 million impact. Officials with the city's sports tourism department said the goal for 2018 is to reach $200 million.
"We're getting closer and closer to that $200 million mark, which is very exciting." Tim Huber, director of sports tourism, said.
The goal of the sports tourism staff is to continue to help grow direct spending in the community with tournaments.
"There's only a handful of destinations across the country that reach that number, primarily on amateur sports tourism, which is what we specialize in," Huber said. "Youth events, family-oriented events, obviously that's what we do very well and what our facilities are catered towards."
To help keep up with the industry's growth, Horry Georgetown Technical College created an associate's degree in sports tourism four years ago.
"Holy cow, this should be the mecca for sports tourism and I really believe it will be," Lawson Holland, the degree's creator, said. "Sports tourism is the buzz up and down the Grant Strand. It is huge."
Holland credits current Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes for his efforts in promoting sports tourism and overseeing the Beach Ball Classic.
"When you take teams from distant places, they are exposed to Myrtle Beach and obviously the hope is to put heads in beds," Holland said.
The two-year degree consists of marketing, planning facilities, sports law and business, along with three semesters of internships. Holland said his classes have 100 percent placement with either jobs or continuing education.
The HGTC students have the chance to work at The Grand Park or the Myrtle Beach Sports Center.
"Each semester, we have students that come on board and one of the nice things about the partnership is that some students have the opportunity to even become city employees," Huber said.
For the first time, adult volleyball and softball team events will start the first weekend in January, according to Huber. That marks the earliest these two sports have ever hosted competitors.
"In March, we already have over 100 collegiate teams registered to come for three weeks of track and field training and competition, so that'll be new economic spending we didn't have last year," Huber said.
Both men agree big things are in the works for Myrtle Beach and the goal of sports tourism is to help fill available jobs in the Grand Strand and beyond.