Thousands of college basketball fans are in the Grand Strand this week for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament.
The tournament is usually played on the island territory, hence the name, but organizers realized infrastructure there had been too severely damaged by Hurricane Maria in September. So tourism officials in Myrtle Beach reached out to the event’s sponsor ESPN.
“We expect several million dollars to come into the Myrtle Beach area as many basketball fans come here to tip off what we hope to be a great college basketball season,” said President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce Brad Dean. “Of course, this is a slow time of year for our tourism industry so the economic benefit couldn’t come at a better time.”
Dean said it usually takes years for tourism groups to lure an event such as this and plan for it, but the Myrtle Beach venue filled a necessity.
“This one fell into our lap,” he said.
Part of the request made to ESPN was that the tournament keep Puerto Rico in the name, even if it was being played in Myrtle Beach, and it be used as an opportunity to collect donations for Puerto Rico’s hurricane victims.
“We’re collecting toys and canned goods at the games and we’re also collecting at all the chamber offices in the area and we’ll continue to do that through the holiday season,” Dean said.
Eight teams are competing, including the South Carolina Gamecocks.
“There’s so many Gamecock fans in the Myrtle Beach area, so the opportunity to have the Gamecocks here, right here on our home court, it’s an awesome opportunity.”
However, the in-state team lost in the first round to Illinois State. The Gamecocks will continue on in the tournament’s lower bracket, but can no longer win its title.
The tournament is November 16, 17 and 19 at HTC Arena on the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Conway. Click here for information.