Downtown baseball: Could Myrtle Beach Pelicans move stadium to city’s oceanfront land?

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The future of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ stadium remains murky, but speculation that the team may move downtown appears unlikely.

The minor league baseball team, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, kicked off its 2024 season last week, and major changes to its stadium are needed to ensure the team stays put for 2025 and beyond.

TicketReturn.Com Field, at 1251 21st Ave. N., is co-owned by the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County, with the city owning 70% and the county 30%.

The lease agreement, first signed in 1998, initially granted the Pelicans use of the stadium through 2018. The city and county have since approved multiple extensions, most recently through the end of the 2024 season.

Beyond the need to extend that lease, the Pelicans also need to at least have a plan in place by the start of the 2025 season to bring its stadium within compliance of Major League Baseball standards.

The city has estimated needed renovations to the clubhouses, team facilities and playing field could cost more than $50 million, and county leaders have publicly balked at pouring money into the project.

The prolonged lack of commitment to making these required improvements, coupled with city leaders’ stated desire to keep the team in Myrtle Beach, has led to rumors the plan is to build an entirely new stadium downtown.

A recent post within a popular local Facebook group discussing that rumor garnered nearly 170 comments.

Brian Tucker, Myrtle Beach’s assistant city manager, told The Sun News he’s been hearing these rumors for more than two years, but there’s no current commitment to move the stadium. City council will have to take some action soon to address the future of the Pelicans in Myrtle Beach, he added.

At Field, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans attract fans by providing food and entertainment options beyond the baseball game. June 30, 2021.
At Field, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans attract fans by providing food and entertainment options beyond the baseball game. June 30, 2021.

Mayor Brenda Bethune said Wednesday that city officials are still waiting to receive a renovation plan from Pelicans ownership for the current stadium before deciding how to move forward. She emphasized that she and other city leaders want the team in Myrtle Beach because they’re an important part of the community with a lot of supporters.

A message left for the Pelicans’ general manager was not returned.

Is downtown stadium possible?

Tucker and Bethune both acknowledged that rumors about a potential move center on oceanfront land east of Kings Highway around 14th Avenue S. to 22nd Avenue N. The city has spent about $31 million in recent years buying up properties there, adjacent to the old Myrtle Beach Pavilion site, as part of a large scale redevelopment effort.

Tucker said the “master plan” is still being created for how to best use that land, but what the city currently owns is not enough space to build a new stadium, let alone the additional parking that would be needed.

Burroughs and Chapin, which owns the former pavilion property, has allowed the city to include that land within its master plan, Tucker said, but there’s no agreement in place for the city to purchase it.

A message left for a Burroughs and Chapin spokesperson was not returned.

Bethune said one of the ideas discussed for that land is a multi-functional sports venue that could also host concerts and other events, but no concrete plan exists to move forward with that idea.

“Every person you ask has a different opinion (on how to use that land),” Tucker said, adding that city officials are trying to strike a “delicate balance” between providing public amenities and attracting private investment.