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      Consultant thinks Myrtle Beach will be major sports tourism destination

      Myrtle Beach could become one of the top sports tourism destinations in the country. That's what sports tourism consultant Don Schumacher told Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and city leaders Tuesday.

      Schumacher, who heads a sports marketing company based in Cincinnati, says his research shows sports tourism already generates $100 million a year in visitor spending on the Grand Strand, with much of that coming from events hosted at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

      But Schumacher, who is also executive director of the National Association of Sports Commissions, says the Myrtle Beach area could do even better if it had a separate indoor sports facility.

      "That would be designed primarily for basketball, volleyball and court sports, including all the mat sports, because there's a critical mass of travelers that you could depend on if you had that kind of facility," Schumacher said.

      Schumacher is proposing a 90,000 square foot facility that would cost about $10 million to build and would be located on the Horry Georgetown Technical College Grand Strand campus, near the existing Grand Park sports complex.

      Schumacher says an indoor facility could allow HGTC to create a new course of study to attract students, and the building would extend the area's sports tourism season to 12 months a year.

      "There's a lot of business here in the summer. This building will produce more business in the summer, but what it really will do is perform in the shoulder and off seasons."

      He says events at the facility would attract an additional 55,000 visitors a year and $25 million in visitor spending.

      Schumacher says it's great that the convention center can be used for sporting events, but sports isn't that building's true purpose.

      "It's primary purpose is meetings, conventions and trade shows and there's no reason to believe that business isn't coming back," Schumacher said. "And this way, you could have a convention and a sports event at the same time."

      The head of the Grand Strand Juniors volleyball club says an indoor facility is exactly what his group needs, since its annual winter bump tournament, set to get underway next weekend, has run out of room.

      "We're actually currently sending 90 teams down to Charleston over the weekend, because we just couldn't find the space and the needs we have here in Myrtle Beach," said Alex Sing.

      Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes has gone on record supporting an indoor facility, which he says could be built without a tax increase.