Myrtle Beach mayor reveals plans for indoor sports facility

Sports tourism has a multi-million dollar impact on the Grand Strand, but some say there's the potential for much more.

While Grand Park in Myrtle Beach already has softball and soccer fields that have attracted a number of tournaments and visitors, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes wants the city to add something he thinks could provide a big sports tourism payoff.

"We're also looking at the possibility of a new facility that would maybe have 12 basketball courts or 16 volleyball courts," Rhodes said. "Big demand for space in the box."

Rhodes envisions a 75 to 100-thousand square foot indoor facility, similar to the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton, Virginia that he says has proven to be successful.

Building a large indoor facility at Grand Park would cost a lot of money and Rhodes says, right now, he doesn't know how much, but he believes it can be done without a tax increase.

"We're going to look at joint ventures, private-public possible investments, also we'll look at naming rights."

Rhodes says the city is waiting for the results of a sports tourism study compiled by consultant Don Schumacher to see how much an indoor complex would cost. Rhodes believes it could pay for itself over time, not through rentals of the facility, but through other means.

"It will pay for itself in the additional business that it will bring to Myrtle Beach, whether it's hotels, restaurants, taxes, retail, whatever," he said.

Rhodes says an indoor facility could be used for other activities that the average person may not think of as sport tourism, but fall under that heading, like bridge tournaments or darts competitions.

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce marketing officials say sports tourism accounts for at least 50 to 60 thousand hotel room nights on the Grand Strand each year.