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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Carolinas: Myrtle Beach builds its fan base

Photo courtesy Myrtle Beach Area CVB

Some 7,000 people will converge in Myrtle Beach, S.C.,  in July for the USA Track and Field Youth Outdoor National Championships, one of many national and regional sports competitions drawn to the area’s beaches, tourist attractions, plentiful hotel rooms and, of course, sports facilities.

“We will also host the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympics Cross Country Championships for 5,000 people in December 2011, and both events will compete on a world-class track at our newly renovated Doug Shaw Stadium,” said Danna Lilly, director of sales, Myrtle Beach Area CVB.

“Sports are a growing market for us, especially in the recent down economy, and we have renovated and built several new facilities, as well as added a new sports sales position [at the CVB],” she said. “We are a prime location for youth sports tournaments like baseball, soccer, and track and field, because families know they can make a vacation out of it as well.”

The area’s newest sports facilities are in the Grand Park Recreational Complex in South Myrtle Beach. The city’s first national soccer championship will be held there in August, when the World Soccer Tour’s 3v3 World Cup Championships brings 2,000 athletes and several thousand spectators to town.

“In October, we will hold the first Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon for some 5,000 people, who will be running from the new Freestyle Music Park to Broadway on the Beach and the oceanfront boardwalk,” Lilly said.

Golf is popular with many of the corporations and associations that meet in Myrtle Beach. There are more than 100 courses, including seven rated among the country’s top 100 public courses by Golf Digest.

“All golfers can find their niche here, as tournaments can be set up at many different levels of play, and we have so many course options and price points,” said Lilly.

Groups with a passion for golf can hold a reception for up to 500 at the Pine Lakes Country Club, which was established in 1927 as Myrtle Beach’s first golf course.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the golf course and antebellum-style clubhouse recently reopened after a two-year, $15 million renovation. The Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame is also on the property.

Two championship golf courses add to the appeal of the upscale Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, situated in a master-planned resort between the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Meeting planners also are attracted by the layout of the inn’s 15,000 square feet of meeting space.
A 5,100-square-foot ballroom flows into a stately prefunction area, which in turn opens onto a covered loggia overlooking a lawn and the waterway. A circular boardroom and two meeting rooms, all with windows overlooking the lawn and water, adjoin the prefunction area.

Many of Myrtle Beach’s tourist attractions offer off-site event space, among them the House of Blues’ 1,800-person concert hall.

Ripley’s Aquarium at the Broadway at the Beach entertainment complex can host team-building scavenger hunts and receptions for up to 200 persons; the complex’s upcoming Wonderworks interactive science center, which will open in summer 2011, will be an interesting venue as well.
Myrtle Beach’s attractions and amenities, not to mention 60 miles of beaches along the Grand Strand, make it easy for meeting planners to draw participants.

“We are such a popular meeting destination that meeting attendance records are often set here,” said Lilly. “For example, the South Atlantic Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha had a record attendance of over 2,500 when they met at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in April 2009.”

The Myrtle Beach Convention Center can handle groups of up to 10,000 in its 100,800-square-foot, column-free exhibition hall. The attached 402-room Sheraton Myrtle Beach offers an 18,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, and the center also has a 30,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.

Twenty other area hotels also have meeting facilities, including the 407-room Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort at Grande Dunes with 45,000 square feet of meeting space.

Kingston Plantation is a resort complex with 1,600 hotel rooms in multiple properties, including a 385-room Hilton Hotel with 32,000 square feet of meeting space and a 255-room Embassy Suites with 70,000 square feet of meeting space.

A growing number of the 14 million people who visit each year arrive by air, spurring a $130 million terminal expansion at the Myrtle Beach International Airport.

And, in an effort to revitalize its downtown area, the city of Myrtle Beach has invested $6 million in a 1.2-mile oceanfront boardwalk that is expected to open in late spring.

“So many new attractions, like our theaters and Broadway at the Beach, are away from downtown that visitors have migrated away from the area,” said Lilly. “The new boardwalk will also bring in new restaurants and begin to revitalize the nostalgic part of Myrtle Beach.”

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