MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — 2023 is a contract year for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, as the team’s lease agreement with the city of Myrtle Beach and Horry County only runs through the end of this season.
Pelicans Ballpark is due for major upgrades worth tens of millions, and with soaring costs, some Horry County leaders want out of the deal.
“It’s such a bad investment, the return is probably negative,” Horry County Councilman Gary Loftus said.
Myrtle Beach owns 70% and manages the park and Horry County owns the rest.
Renovations to bring the park to major league standards in player development could cost close to $60 million. The public would not notice most of the upgrades, which would include enhanced clubhouses and even a kitchen.
Loftus does not see the value, and he is not alone.
“If we invest in a subdivision or something like that, at least we get property taxes,” Loftus said. “We don’t get a thing out of this thing.”
Many county councilmembers, including the county’s attorney, echoed Loftus’s sentiment during their Spring budget retreat April 13:
“Can we give them our share?” asked an unknown councilmember.
“I was thinking the same thing,” councilwoman Jenna Dukes said.
“Can we sell them our share for $1?” Loftus asked.
“I’ve been asking that for five years,” councilman Johnny Gardner said.
“Who negotiated that contract is what I want to know,” councilman Al Allen said.
“It’s a horrible contract. The only way we can get out of it is to breach it, which is a possibility,” Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti said.
News13 received the contract through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The request was sent the day of the budget retreat on April 13, but it was not returned until Thursday morning at about 9:00 a.m.
The original 20-year lease agreement dates back to 1998, and it’s been extended twice. The team pays yearly rent based on a percentage of revenue beyond $3.25 million.
The city and county do have a legal history. It’s been almost two years since the two sides settled a lawsuit over redevelopment of the former Air Force base.
“I’d love to sit down with the city of Myrtle Beach and talk it over,” Loftus said.
The Pelicans declined to comment Thursday but have sent News13’s Manny Martinez’s interview request to the team chairman.
The Pelicans are currently on the road and will return to Myrtle Beach on May 9.