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Myrtle Beach businesses prepare for rebound year thanks to visiting sports teams, families

MYRTLE BEACH — The city of Myrtle Beach projects direct spending from sports-team visitors will return to 2019 levels, which means the businesses that welcome these teams when games are not being played will get close to "normal."

Tim Huber, sports tourism director for the city of Myrtle Beach, said Myrtle Beach is seeing a "strong rebound" from 2020, and several indicators predicting a possible increase.

"Our two largest baseball and softball groups, Triple Crown and Athletx, are registering teams at levels exceeding 2019," Huber said.

However, he said, "There is uncertainty with... summertime cheerleading events at the Convention Center. Some level of caution that competitors and families are not quite ready to fully return." 

In early June, the National Archery in Schools Program is expecting several thousand archers and their families for the first time in Myrtle Beach since 2016. The Diamond Sports Group has a new youth football event in early June, as well. The Ripken Experience has added, based on demand, three additional week-long tournaments to their summer calendar.

Also, the Myrtle Beach Marathon was rescheduled to May 1, which should bump May numbers past those of previous years.

The city's sports tourism department leverages local attractions to set Myrtle Beach apart from competing destinations.

For instance, for youth events at city venues, the sports department offers an Athlete's Savings Card, which includes discounts to many local shops, restaurants and attractions that benefit from sports groups.

Jonathan Paris, executive director of sports tourism for the Myrtle Beach chamber's tourism arm, Visit Myrtle Beach, said Myrtle Beach will host a sports tourism trade show in May called Sports Express. The trade show is slated to bring about 30 event owners and representatives from upwards of 45 destinations from across the country to Myrtle Beach.

As for Visit Myrtle Beach's efforts, they are launching a new digital deals program through a program hosted by Bandwango called The Passport to Fun. It was recently launched and will offer discounts and deals at area attractions, restaurants and other businesses, Paris said.

"Our goal is to distribute this to our upcoming event owners to get out to their summer participants," Paris said.

Huber said many tournament operators reach out directly to the local business community to create partnerships.

Chrissy Mays is co-owner of Rockin' Jump — a trampoline gym located across the street from the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Mays said Rockin' Jump sponsors sports facilities such as the Myrtle Beach Sports Center, North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex and the Ripken Experience, which helps them attract athletes and their families to Rockin’ Jump.

"We absolutely see an impact from sports tourism," Mays said. "It's difficult to quantify exactly how much, but when the Myrtle Beach Convention Center or sports complex host events, we certainly see an influx of people. Even if the athletes themselves aren't jumping, their brothers and sisters are often looking for an outlet to have a good time and get some exercise, and that leads them across the street to Rockin' Jump."

She said she has noticed a large uptick in the number of families in town for sports tourism coming to Rockin' Jump in the first quarter of 2021.

"We are delighted to see it," Mays said.

Mark Lazarus is owner of waterparks Myrtle Waves in Myrtle Beach and Wild Water and Wheels in Surfside Beach, and Broadway Grand Prix arcade and go-kart track. He said the sports tourism season has spread throughout the year to include soccer, cheerleading, archery, volleyball and lacrosse tournaments that are not just designated for the warm months.

"A lot of times they come during the offseason that helps generate income for us," Lazarus said. "We've got Ripken (Experience) right here beside (Myrtle Waves/Broadway Grand Prix), and they're full of tournaments. Spring break is basically over and here we have 330 soccer teams in for the weekend."

Lazarus said his companies participate in a discount card with teams that play at the sports complex.

"It's a great boost," Lazarus said.

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