South Carolina

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North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Building a Premier Sports Destination

12 Nov, 2013

By: Peter Francesconi

There clearly is something satisfying about announcing the construction of a new state-of-the-art sports complex, then immediately receiving reservations for dozens of events and tournaments to be placed in the yet-to-be-built facility.

“Our new park will open in March, and we already have more than 60 events booked, and more keep rolling in,” says Matt Gibbons, the superintendent of sports tourism and athletics for the City of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Gibbons says he had hoped that by the March 1 opening, 40 events would have booked space in the new complex. But interest in the new facility from event owners and organizers, plus the attractions of the North Myrtle Beach area itself, have helped to keep his phone ringing.

“We’re extremely excited about this project and think it will be a great success, not just for the city, but for athletes and their families and friends who come here,” he adds.

The new $15 million North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex will encompass 163 acres, including a 20-acre lake. Actually, says Gibbons, there will be two sports complexes within the park—one will be a baseball/softball complex with six diamonds, the other will be for field sports such as soccer and lacrosse and have eight regulation-size fields. In between these two “anchor complexes” will be an administration building, 3 miles of walking trails, two dog parks, three playgrounds, an amphitheater, picnic shelters, a 10-acre meadow with trails around it and more.

“This is going to be a destination for people who enjoy sports and the outdoors,” Gibbons notes, adding that part of the appeal will be the natural state of the park. “We didn’t completely clear the land to build the fields—we wanted people to be able to enjoy the trees and grass. So we worked around the existing landscape to fit in the fields.”

Hot Sports Market

Work toward approving the new park and sports complex started at least four years ago, when the North Myrtle Beach City Council began looking into ways to increase tourism to the area, especially for the ‘shoulder’ seasons in the spring and fall. “Our summers here are very busy, but we had room to grow in the shoulder seasons,” Gibbons says. “The city council realized that sports tourism was hot, and would continue to grow, so after a lot of research, we came up with our plan—to build a state-of-the-art sports park inside of a general recreation park. The idea was this would be for athletes and sports teams coming into the area, but also, it will be for our residents, too.”

The baseball/softball side of the new sports complex will have four youth baseball/collegiate softball fields and two regulation high school/collegiate baseball diamonds. When needed, portable fencing will transform the two larger fields into youth baseball/collegiate softball fields. All six diamonds will have lights on them. In addition, all the dugouts will have misting fans so players stay comfortable, and there will be bullpens and eight batting tunnels.

On the soccer/lacrosse field side, four of the eight regulation-size fields will have lights. The complex also will have concession areas and there will be changing rooms for umpires and officials.

“As the new sports complex takes shape, we’ve also been gearing up our sports marketing,” says Marilyn Rinehart, the director of marketing for the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau. The CVB recently hired Geoff Stephens as its sports and group tourism sales manager and is working with Gibbons and the city to promote the new facility. “As groups continue to show interest in bringing their events to the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex, Geoff will work with Matt and event organizers to provide any help they may need,” Rinehart says.

Fastpitch Dreams Collegiate Softball Spring Training is scheduled to be the first event to open the complex in March. Among the dozens of events already booked for the new facility is the International Quidditch Association World Cup, which will bring 80 teams of college players to the sports complex in April, playing the game made popular in the “Harry Potter” books. The new facility also will host the 2014 Dixie Softball World Series.

The new North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex is about 3.5 miles from the beach and within 10 miles of all types of accommodations, restaurants and shops. “One of the benefits of this location is how accessible the sports complex is,” Gibbons says. “It’s right off South Carolina Highway 31, accessible from anywhere, and in a location where drivers don’t have to fight traffic.”

A Sports Tradition

The new complex continues to expand the investment in sports tourism for North Myrtle Beach, which has hosted everything from amateur events to regional and national championships. In fact, with the new sports complex, the city adds to its healthy roster of sports facilities capable of attracting top events, including:

* 12 youth baseball/softball fields and 3 high school/collegiate baseball fields.

* 10 multi-purpose fields that are regulation for soccer and lacrosse.

* 4 gymnasiums, with access to other indoor gyms.

* A state-of-the-art swim and fitness center, with an eight-lane, 25-meter swimming pool, complete with a timing system by Colorado Time Systems.

* Certified 5K, 10K and half-marathon courses, all with beautiful ocean views.

North Myrtle Beach also is the home of the U.S. Basketball Association Summer National tournament, which brings in more than 320 teams, and host to a Diva Half Marathon Series event, which brings in about 5,000 runners.

Miles of Beaches, and More

Off the field, sports participants and their families can take advantage of everything that North Myrtle Beach has to offer. “Everyone loves coming here for the beaches,” says Rinehart. “We have nine miles of wide, sandy beaches.”

Of course, with the beaches also come plenty of water sports options (including boating excursions, riverboat cruises and private charters), seaside amusement parks, shopping and theaters. There are hundreds of options for entertainment, for visitors of all ages. Plus, the North Myrtle Beach area has a mild, subtropical climate, which makes it a great destination year-round.

The area also has more than 1,000 dining options, to fit any taste or budget. And there are over 12,500 rooms/condos and vacation rentals—from resorts to oceanfront hotels to everything in between—offering a wide range of amenities and competitive rates.

To serve visiting sports groups, the Chamber of Commerce has developed a partnership between the City of North Myrtle Beach and the North Myrtle Beach Parks & Recreation Department and can help event organizers by:

* Assisting with group accommodations at one of the many North Myrtle Beach properties.

* Working with existing teams and statewide events to promote new initiatives.

* Creating and distributing press materials to sports media contacts.

* Coordinating letters of support for bid proposals.

“We’re extremely excited about the opportunities this new park and sports complex will bring to North Myrtle Beach,” Rinehart says. “To have event owners show this much interest, and commitment, to our new sports facility while it’s still being built tells me that we definitely are on the right track in giving organizers, athletes and their families what they’re looking for in terms of a wonderful experience.”

North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex

Opens: March 2014

* 4 Youth Baseball/Collegiate Softball Fields (with lights)

* 2 High School/Collegiate Baseball Fields (with lights)

* 8 Regulation Soccer/Lacrosse/Football Fields (4 with lights)

* Dugouts with misting fans

* Bullpens

* 8 Batting Tunnels

* Concession Areas

* Umpire/Officials Rooms

* Picnic Shelters

* 3 Playgrounds

* Amphitheater

* 3-Acre Dog Park

* 25-Acre Lake for Water-Related Activities

* 10-Acre Meadow

* Walking/Bike Trails

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