Myrtle Beach is big on sports and meetings
One of the most important things to know about Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is that it’s considered a region, not just a beach town. Also known as the Grand Strand, the Myrtle Beach area includes 12 communities that combine to offer 60 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, renowned golf courses, live entertainment and stellar meeting venues and resorts.
To put Myrtle Beach in a box would be unfair. Sure, it’s a major vacation destination, but all those traits that annually attract families and friends for summertime fun are the same as those that boost its popularity as a meetings destination.
The city hosts hundreds of events year-round to keep its loyal visitors coming back, from the three-day Carolina Country Music Fest in June to Bike Week in May.
Step into the lobby of any resort or hotel and you will likely see golf clubs. Myrtle Beach’s nickname is Golf Town USA and it lives up to that claim with more than 100 championship golf courses and 30 miniature courses. It’s estimated that 3.4 million rounds of golf are played there each year.
“We’re marketing to the entire world,” says Danna Lilly, CMP, director of group sales for Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have a golf course for you.”
On the leaderboard of courses is Robert Trent Jones-designed Dunes Golf & Beach Club, which is in the city of Myrtle Beach. The Dunes hosted the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship, drawing top club professionals from throughout the United States. How posh is the Dunes? Its slogan is “The only thing we overlook is the ocean.” The club’s ballroom offers spectacular ocean views, with space for up to 500 for receptions and 300 for banquets.
Barefoot Resort & Golf in North Myrtle Beach is on the Intracoastal Waterway. It is home to the “Fantastic Four” championship courses designed separately by Greg Norman, Davis Love III, Tom Fazio and Pete Dye. Furnished condos and villas can be rented. There are more than 150 shops and attractions at Barefoot Landing, including The House of Blues and Alabama Theatre.
The Conference Center at Barefoot Resort is independently owned, with 17,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space and 13,000 sq. ft. outdoors. The 7,000-square-foot ballroom can be divided into thirds.
International World Tour Golf Links in Myrtle Beach features 18 holes that resemble the top holes from courses throughout the world.
Sports tourism is the No. 1 producer of hotel room nights booked in Myrtle Beach, according to Lilly. She says that spring and fall, with warm weather and fewer people, are the peak seasons for golf.
Myrtle Beach is very popular for youth and adult sports groups holding championships and special competitions. Myrtle Beach Sports Center, with 100,000 sq. ft. of space for every indoor sport imaginable, opened in March to help accommodate even more events. For example, the facility can be configured into space for eight basketball courts and 16 volleyball courts. Other sports events the center can accommodate include wrestling, table tennis and gymnastics. It seats more than 1,500.
The space can easily be converted for trade shows and other special events such as receptions and team-building activities. The center also offers several private meeting rooms.
“Talented athletes have been coming to the Myrtle Beach area for years in the name of inspired competition, and this new facility is a fantastic way to host even more sporting events and grow our reputation as a sports tourism destination,” says Mark Beale, marketing and business development director for the center.
With quality outdoor sports complexes throughout the region, featuring baseball/softball and soccer fields, Myrtle Beach competes against Florida cities such as Daytona Beach, Panama City, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as Virginia Beach to host amateur sporting events. There’s so much to do in the area that even if a team is eliminated early, there’s no reason to head home.
For those who are more into spectator sports, plan to attend a baseball game featuring the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The 6,599-capacity Pelicans Ballpark even has a beach down the third-base line in addition to luxury suites and pregame picnics.
Ripley’s Aquarium, which features 3,000 species, has a 340-foot tunnel where sharks swim overhead; it’s the longest aquarium tunnel in the United States and includes a glide path that moves visitors throughout the exhibit. The aquarium can hold up to 1,500 for a buyout. There’s private space for up to 130 for receptions and 90 for a seated dinner. The full-time chef creates freshly prepared banquets and dinners.
Equipped for Meetings
A great one-two meeting punch is Myrtle Beach Convention Center and Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel, which are connected. The convention center has more than 250,000 sq. ft. of flexible event space, including a 100,800-square-foot column-free exhibition hall and 17,000-square-foot ballroom. The 30,000-square-foot plaza is perfect for receptions, barbecues and outdoor events. Combined with all that the destination has to offer, the convention center ranks as a key events venue for association, corporate and government meetings.
The 400-room Sheraton is a great complement to the convention center. There’s a small business center, an indoor pool and a fitness center. Vidalia Restaurant provides onsite dining.
The major meeting resorts are clustered a short drive north of the convention center and include Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes, Embassy Suites by Hilton Myrtle Beach Oceanfront Resort, Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort and Marina Inn at Grande Dunes.
The oceanfront Marriott property is undergoing a $26 million renovation. There are 405 guest rooms and 45,000 sq. ft. of event space. Marina Inn, located on the Intercoastal Waterway with its own boat slips, offers 200 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. ft. of event space. Embassy Suites and the Hilton, which are part of Kingston Resorts, combine to offer 105,000 sq. ft. of event space and 640 guest rooms.
Of course, there are many independently owned hotels, whether planners are seeking traditional beachfront lodging or boutique gems. Led by golf and sports venues, Myrtle Beach is a marquee destination for events, with infrastructure and entertainment to make all attendees feel like winners.
Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is classic Americana, with restaurants, gift shops, arcades and a 187-foot Ferris wheel that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. For live music, visit The Bowery, which used to host the Southern rock group Alabama as its house band.
The Carolina Opry provides entertainment, with Broadway-esque performances. The theater seats 2,000 and group reservations are available. It also hosts award ceremonies and conferences. Catering services are available.
Myrtle Beach State Park and Huntington Beach State Park are oceanfront hideaways that make for great camping and offsites. (With campgrounds up and down the coast, meeting attendees have unique vacation options before and after conferences.