New Esports entertainment industry coming to the Grand Strand with big plans

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – A new sport is coming to the Grand Strand.

Competitive online gaming, also known as Esports, is bringing a new entertainment industry to Myrtle Beach.

Two Esport companies, American Youth Cooperative for Esports (AYCE) and Harena Data Inc, have partnered with Visit Myrtle Beach and the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce to create a program that would bring competition, scholarship, and networking opportunity to the Grand Strand.

Esport data experts say there are 2.9 billion video gamers worldwide.

Sixty-eight percent of American homes have at least one gamer living there, according to Bill Dever, the Chief Strategy Officer and Chairman of AYCE.

“We have a big belief in Myrtle Beach,” Dever said.

Those behind the initiative say the Grand Strand has shown to be a sustainable economic engine for family and fun entertainment, even throughout the pandemic.

“We are going to make sure the Grand Strand, all 60 miles of it, is a virtually enabled gaming center. The whole Myrtle Beach city, Visit Myrtle Beach community, and the Chamber of Commerce wants to make Myrtle Beach the number one Esports attraction in North America,” Dever said.

Developers say this could be a networking opportunity. They plan to utilize existing facilities like the Pelicans Stadium when it is not in use.

“Golden Dragons” is one of the new iniatives the organizations plan to introduce. The program would be a regular year-round gaming series giving participants a chance to win esports scholarships up to $2,000, win family vacations to Myrtle Beach, and other prizes.

The Esport program would offer a wide range of gaming including NBA 2K, Madden, FIFA, and games offered at the collegiate level.

Over 100 schools have started to dive into collegiate esports over the last several years, even offering their players scholarships.

Sports tourism leaders say the esports partnership will initially provide exposure for the Myrtle Beach area to the competitive gaming community, which is a target market for the destination.

“We will build on this exposure by creating events in the future that will bring esports players to the region. We do not have impact estimates at this time,” Jonathan Paris, Executive Director of Sports Tourism, Visit Myrtle Beach, said.

While Myrtle Beach leaders say it would be an economic attractor for the city, developers see a networking opportunity.

“You see careers that are built off networking, especially in gaming and live-streaming. I think there is tons of opportunity that awaits. Even just using this as a vehicle for something else that players might be interested in, whether that be on an educational level like with coding programming or graphic design,” Noah Hankinson, the product development officer at Harena Data, said.

Myrtle Beach is one of the first cities to adopt this Esport program.

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