Myrtle Beach took another step Tuesday toward its goal of becoming a major sports tourism destination.
City officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for Myrtle Beach's planned $12.4 million indoor sports facility, though site work for the building is already well underway.
The venue will have room for 8 basketball or 16 volleyball courts, plus space for mat sports like dance and cheerleading.
Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes says the facility is expected to eventually produce $28 million a year in visitor spending, with much of it coming during what's typically a slow time of year.
"We know that we can fill this up during the summer, that's not a problem. But now we've got an indoor facility during the shoulder months that we can bring those events in," Rhodes said.
When Rhodes first envisioned an indoor sports facility, he thought it should be built at Grand Park, near Market Common. Instead, it will be built on land adjacent to the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, but the mayor now says, there's a good reason for that.
"I think the location's perfect. Fits right in with the convention center, we got the convention hotel, plus walking distance to hotels on (Ocean) Boulevard. Also, we allow walking distance to the hotels at Broadway at the Beach."
The CEO of Sports Facilities Advisory, the company that will manage the indoor facility's day-to-day operations, says other cities are jumping on the sports tourism bandwagon, but the Grand Strand has some advantages over its competitors.
"With its amenities, with the beach, with recreation, with entertainment, with good dining, with enough lodging so that there's a room rate for everybody, Myrtle Beach offers something that's very difficult for other communities to compete with," said Dev Pathik.
The facility is expected to open in early 2015. Pathik says Myrtle Beach is already attracting interest on what he calls the national tournament trail.