Sports Complex already exceeding expectations

The new sports complex in North Myrtle Beach hasn't even been built yet and its already exceeding expectations.

During the North Myrtle Beach Council budget retreat, members were told that, while the North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex now under construction on 160 acres west of the Intracoastal Waterway will not open until March 1, 2014, sports tourism event bookings for the March 2014 - November 2014 time frame have already exceeded the initial annual impact that a 2011 Coastal Carolina University study projected the facility would have on the North Myrtle Beach economy.

The 2011 study directed by the BB&T Center for Economic & Community Development at Coastal Carolina University looked at potential sports tourism events that could be held at the then-proposed North Myrtle Beach Park & Sports Complex.

The study projected that the events would have a $10.6 million direct impact on the city's economy when the complex was fully operational.

With the facility now well underway, the City's sports tourism division has generated firm verbal commitments for March 2014 - November 2014 sports tourism events that promise to have a direct impact of at least $13.5 million on the North Myrtle Beach economy.

The names of the organizations involved in the events will be released after final contracts have been negotiated. According to Sports Tourism Division Superintendent Matt Gibbons, additional sports tourism event commitments are also in the pipeline.

The sports complex offers six baseball/softball fields, and eight multipurpose soccer/lacrosse/football fields. $10.3 million of the recent commitments are for baseball and softball events, and $3.2 million are for soccer/lacrosse events.

The first sports tourism event will begin March 2, 2014 at the new facility.

The National Collegiate Sports Invitational (NCSI) softball tournament and spring practice will feature 20 college teams each week for a three week period, and the NCSI baseball tournament and spring practice will feature eight college teams each week for a three week period.

Council was also told that, given the absence of a water park, staff has returned to working on plans for a large interactive water feature to be located between the ball fields and the multipurpose fields.

An interactive water feature was part of the City's original plan for the park but was set aside.