CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The three day collegiate basketball tournament has all eyes on the Grand Strand as national ESPN coverage begins on the Myrtle Beach Invitational, bringing eight teams and their fans to the area.
The twelve game collegiate basketball tournament attracts a large crowd to Myrtle Beach just as the season crowd started to slow down. Baylor, Coastal Carolina, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Ohio, Tulane, Utah, and Villanova will compete in the tournament.
The first tip off of the tournament was Thursday afternoon. Teams will continue playing Friday, have Saturday off, and the remaining teams will compete for the championship on Sunday, November 24th.
Fans travel to the east coast and represent teams from all over including West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Last year’s Myrtle Beach Invitational sold out and this is pack the stands of the 3,000 plus HTC arena to kick off the first day of the tournament.
Players, ESPN staff, production, and officials make up nearly 1,600 visitors. This weekend’s crowd hikes up business in Myrtle Beach as people book three and four-night hotel stays, eat out at restaurants, and take advantage of tourism activities.
This weekend’s invitational and the most recent Myrtle Beach Bowl are two major ESPN tourism contributions to the city.
“These events are in our shoulder season which is a focus of ours so that is really important,” Myrtle Beach Executive Director of Sports Tourism Jonathan Paris said. “It strengthens our relationship with ESPN which is huge in the sports world they are right up there with the brand you want to be associated with.”
The 2019 Myrtle Beach Invitational is the second out of the three-year deal. Paris tells News 13 the city hopes to continue hosting the tournament in the following years.