The dream of Rock Hill making money off sports tourism began with a park.
If all goes as expected, that dream could soon morph into business worth $36 million annually.
John Gettys, chairman of the Rock Hill Sports Commission, said this week the addition of a proposed indoor sports complex would likely attract $14 million a year in tourism dollars.
The city estimates that sports tourism already is responsible for a direct impact of around $21 million annually, including Rock Hill’s other venues, the Supercross track, the Velodrome, Cherry Park and Manchester Meadows.
Gettys projects that if you add in $14 million to the existing total, the growth would be 70 percent.
“This happened because we made sure our identity wasn’t swallowed by Charlotte,” said Gettys, speaking Tuesday at York County’s 2017 Tourism Summit. “We have to protect our brand. We’re a progressive city, because we work hard to be on the next level.”
70 percent City officials predict that a proposed indoor sports complex will likely attract $14 million annually in tourism dollars, which could bolster Rock Hill’s yearly intake by about 70 percent
York County received rave reviews from Duane Parrish, executive director of S.C. Parks, Recreation & Tourism.
Parrish said officials have worked hard to bring national and international sports events to Rock Hill, including the upcoming UCI BMX World Championships this July 25-30 at the Supercross track in the Riverwalk community.
The event, which is expected to attract 20,000 fans and 3,300 competitors from more than 40 countries, is expected to be the largest international sports event in South Carolina history. Gettys said the one-time event should bring a direct economic impact of $13 million.
“Rock Hill’s been on the cutting edge of sports tourism for some time now,” Parrish said.
Rock Hill is a catalyst for York County, according to Auvis Cole, who organizes sports tourism with the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said Rock Hill regularly competes against Columbia, Greenville, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Charlotte for new events.
Cole pointed out county successes such as Fort Mill’s Comporium Athletic Park and the Kingsley Village, which will soon see seven restaurants and a hotel operating alongside large-scale companies like Lash and LPL Financial.
Cole said there are currently around 10 hotels either under construction or in planning over the next few years to handle demand.
“There are definitely a lot of eyes put on our community,” Cole said. “People are looking and talking about what we are doing. They’ll send their officials to our area to check out our infrastructure, our product, our location. ... You can see how fast and how unique our area has gotten.”
City officials are considering a 140,000-square-foot indoor sports arena in downtown Rock Hill that Gettys says would allow the city to take advantage of an “untapped market” in sports tourism.
Rock Hill’s been on the cutting edge of sports tourism for some time now.
Duane Parrish, Executive Director of South Carolina Parks, Recreation & Tourism
The center would be built at a former textile site near downtown.
The 23-acre site once was home to the Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co., also known as the Bleachery, and employed one of every five workers in Rock Hill at the height of its operations. The plant bleached, dyed, printed and finished cloth.
Construction workers under master developer Sora-Phelps are expected to spend most of this year renovating the Lowenstein Building, as well as the adjoining 1939 building, at the corner of West White Street and Laurel Street.
Officials have said the sports complex – which could be open throughout the year – could serve more than 50 sports and activities, including basketball and volleyball. A public hearing on the arena and possibly a lease agreement for the space may be on the Rock Hill City Council agenda on April 10.
Gettys told visitors at this week’s summit that Rock Hill’s tourism efforts began with Cherry Park around 1985. He said Rock Hill officials wanted to give residents an opportunity to live and play in an attractive area.
The park later found success and paved the way in 2002 for officials to approve the passing of a hospitality tax, he said. From there, Gettys said earning revenue through visitors to York County has been a boon for new facilities.
There are definitely a lot of eyes put on our community. People are looking and talking about what we are doing.
Auvis Cole, sales director for Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau