Grand Strand makes strong case as S.C.’s top sports city

Every year, The Sporting News magazine puts out a ranking of “America’s Best Sports Cities,” and our community is never given its proper due.

Clemson is always rated by the magazine No. 1 in S.C., Columbia is a close second, with Charleston a distant third. As all eyes in the Palmetto State sportsview will be trained on Columbia next week in preparation for the Annual Clemson-Carolina gridiron grudge-match, I want to make my nomination for South Carolina’s Best Sports City.

If The Sporting News can combine Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, better known as the “Research Triangle” into one sports city, I can certainly combine Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Conway, better known as the “Grand Strand” as one community.

I’ve made the argument on my daily sports talk program, The POWERade PressBox (listen live here on this site, Mon-Fri 7-10 a.m.), that Charleston and the “Low Country” is by far the top sports city in S.C., because they not only have three Division I college athletic programs, but three highly successful minor league franchises (S.C. Stingrays hockey, Charleston RiverDogs baseball and Charleston Battery soccer).

Not to mention the Family Circle Cup Professional Tennis event and PGA Nationwide Tour Championship, which will move to Dallas next year. In addition, they have four competing all-sports radio stations, fabulous golf courses on adjacent islands, the new Four-Letter Network-owned Charleston Classic college basketball event and the extremely popular Charleston Bridge Run Marathon.

With all that said, I have had to change my opinion over the past few months. While big-time college football programs are fabulous and back-to-back baseball national championships notwithstanding, a community has to offer more diversity and both amateur and professional sporting events to be considered the “best.”

That is why I now believe that the Grand Strand is the undisputed best sports community in South Carolina. In addition to the conference championships and NCAA Tournament trips by Coastal Carolina University in virtually every sport within the past 4-5 years, the Grand Strand has recently added a half dozen professional sports teams and events.

The Grand Strand is universally-recognized as the Golf Capitol of the World with the largest amateur golf events on the planet, the World Amateur Handicap Championship among dozens of other national and celebrity golf events played on our courses.

It has hosted America’s Finest High School Holiday Basketball event, the Beach Ball Classic, for 31 years (and this December could bring our best tournament in 15 years with five nationally-ranked teams and the No. 1 ranked player in each of the four classes), plus all of the SCHSL North-South All-Star games in virtually every sport are played along the Strand.

Joining the Texas Rangers’ High Class A affilliate Myrtle Beach Pelicans in our minor league sports family are the SC Warriors ABA pro basketball team, and the Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon has grown to the second largest competitive running-event in the state.

There’s also the Cal Ripken Experience baseball complex that rivals any in the nation, the largest travel-team Volleyball Tournament, with over 400 teams at the MBCC each summer, and one of the most-important Olympic-training outdoor track & field events in the country hosted each year in Myrtle Beach.

Within the last year, two more soon-to-debut events will call Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium home. In October, a six-year agreement was reached with the City of Myrtle Beach to host a national high school football showcase called the “Surf & Turf Kickoff Classic,” which will feature both Myrtle Beach and Conway facing several of the nationally renowned prep football powerhouse programs at Doug Shaw Memorial.

Then shortly after another national football event was brought to our area by CCU Coach David Bennett and George St. Lawrence. The “FCS Senior Scout Bowl” will be played Dec. 17 in the Shaw Stadium to give smaller-school stars one more opportunity to showcase their talents to NFL and other professional football leagues. Both of those events will eventually have national television contracts to further present the Strand to sports fans nationwide.

I’m sure that I could think of a few more sporting events held along the Grand Strand that deserve recognition (I’m sure Tyler Watkin’s is torqued that I didn’t mention some surfing event or roller-derby), but those are the events that should be noticed nationally and why The Sporting News and the Four-Letter network looks down their elitist-noses at the “Redneck Riviera.”

I’m darn proud to call Myrtle Beach home for the past 26 years and while I chased sports teams and events around the country to broadcast for years, now they’re coming to us.

It’s just a fabulous time to be a sports fan along the Carolina Coast and I knew many years ago that if we built the better sports mousetraps, all the stadiums/arenas mentioned above plus a new CCU Convocation Center, that the Sports World would beat a path to our door.

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4 responses to “Grand Strand makes strong case as S.C.’s top sports city”

  1. Allen

    Let us not forget three other events that call the Grand Stand (North Myrtle Beach) home.

    1. Annual Shoot Out by the Sea Christmas Tournament at NMBHS (features 16 boys/girls HS teams for a 3 day tournament). Coming up Dec, 21-22-23

    2. Swannys Round Ball Classic/NMB – Jan 2012 that bring some of the top prep teams to the area

    3. United States Basketball Association National Championships in June/July each year. Last year brought nearly 300 travel basketball teams to the area.

    Keep up the good work brother! BTW, since your show is on in the morning while I am at school, I normally can’t listen but I did get a chance to listen in the past Wed while we were out on break!

  2. Stone Barrington says:

    I enjoyed your article and you defintely make an interesting case for The Grand Strand. There are definitely stronger cities for a “one sport town” like Rock Hill for high school football but for the wide range that is offered along the beach, The Strand can go toe-to-toe with any SC city and probably any east coast city. I challenge your readers to name a more diverse sporting city than The Strand.

  3. Robert Hamm says:

    interesting point Stone. I think the Grand Strand’s vast array of sporting opportunities from surfing to semi pro basketball, M.B. Has it all. However I might disagree with Rock Hill as the high school football giant, I just heard something about Greer going for their 18th state title this year. Wow!

  4. Robert Hamm says:

    Not Greer, its Gaffney.

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