he various themed miniature golf courses and amusement parks lining the streets of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, might attract a flurry of visitors during the warm summer months, but the Southern beachside destination’s inventory of sports venues and hotel rooms are a constant draw throughout the year. My recent visit to the “Grand Strand,” or what locals call the 60-mile stretch of Myrtle Beach coastline, included tours of the area’s major sport facilities as well as a front-row seat at the USA Pickleball Association’s Mid-Atlantic Regional, a tournament that brought about 400 people to the Myrtle Beach Sports Center over the span of three days.
Jim Loving, tournament director, president of the Myrtle Beach Pickleball Club and USAPA’s Myrtle Beach ambassador, said that when the club was established in 2014, there were 40 members and two venues in which to play. Now the club has grown to 250 members playing in nine different venues across the Grand Strand. The club is hoping to grow that number by converting more tennis courts into pickleball courts. Loving is currently making the case to officials at nearby Midway Park to convert the five tennis courts and four pickleball courts into three tennis courts and eight pickleball courts. “They’ve got the interest, it’s just the money now,” Loving said.
In the meantime, the 100,000-square-foot indoor Myrtle Beach Sports Center was configured to accommodate 24 competition courts and three practice courts for the three-day tournament. Since opening in March 2015, the $12.4 million facility has hosted various trade shows, meetings and sporting events. According to Mark Beale, the venue’s director of business development, the sports center is booked every weekend from January to July, with the exception of Memorial Day weekend. And during the off-season, an indoor venue appeals to events such as the pickleball tournament.
Beale noted that the sports center has had success in securing partnerships with local businesses and maintaining those relationships. “My motto is ‘help us make our participants your customers,’” Beale said.
Other notable venues in the area include the athletic facilities at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, a historic area about 15 miles west of Myrtle Beach. Brooks Stadium, home to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers football team, is undergoing a renovation that will add 5,000 seats, bringing its capacity to 21,000. An enclosed hospitality area and two open-air spaces will also be added. The stadium will host the Myrtle Beach Bowl, a new college football event launching in December 2020. Also at the university is the HTC center, which will host the Myrtle Beach Invitational, a new basketball tournament operated by ESPN Events, November 15, 16 and 18.
Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium, jointly owned by the city of Myrtle Beach and the Horry County school district, completed a more than $5 million renovation in 2017. The stadium will host three major track-and-field events in the spring and plans to add more now that the track has been revamped.