Highlighting the best and brightest of the sports tourism industry

The Faces of Sports Tourism series showcases the best and brightest of the industry, establishing a closer connection between sports event planners and the destinations that host their tournaments. With us for our second edition is Jonathan Paris, executive director of sports tourism at Visit Myrtle Beach and current member of the board of directors at the Sports Events and Tourism Association (Sports ETA).

Be sure to Learn More About Myrtle Beach Sports Facilities

Jonathan’s background

I grew up on a family farm in a small town in central Virginia. I attended and played football at a small division III school, Hampden-Sydney College, and then went on to Georgia Southern University where I received my Master’s in Sport Management. That experience led to an internship in Atlanta, Georgia, with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl & Atlanta Sports Council, which then started me down the sports tourism industry path.

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How did you get into your current role as Executive Director of Sports Tourism?

After my internship in Atlanta, I was able to use that experience to get an entry-level event coordinator position with the Massachusetts Sports Commission in Boston. I stayed in Boston for the next 13 years, making my way up to Executive Director of the organization. Wanting a change of pace, I took a job on the sports event side of the equation in Austin, Texas, running large convention center-based youth tournaments around the state.

But after a few years, I realized that I missed selling a destination and that was my true passion. I was very fortunate to get a call one day about this position with Myrtle Beach being open and was excited to get the offer to join the team at Visit Myrtle Beach. I have loved every minute of the past six years at the Beach.

What would you consider your favorite part about your job?

Making a difference in my community, whether that is by the events I bring to the market and the economic impact they have on our community through visitor spending, or by bringing high profile events that showcase Myrtle Beach on a national and international stage. I love the diversity of events that we are able to bring to the market from youth to adult to professional, collegiate and Olympic. If we have a facility or venue that matches the requirements of the event, I have no doubt that we can be right in the mix to host any event out here. That’s the most exciting part of my job.

What’s your favorite sport to play or watch?

I started playing football when I was 10-years-old and played through college, so even though it’s not a sport I’m able to continue to play anymore, it will always be very special to me. But living in Myrtle Beach and being surrounded by over 80 courses, golf is my current favorite sport to actually get out and play.

John T. Rhodes Myrtle Beach Sports Center exterior
Outside of the John T. Rhodes Myrtle Beach Sports Center. Photo courtesy of Visit Myrtle Beach.

Who do you root for?

That’s a tough one, honestly, as I just enjoy watching good events, sports and games, regardless of who’s actually playing. Having lived a long time in Boston, it was difficult to not get wrapped up into the passion and excitement of the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins. On the collegiate side, I grew up a University of Virginia Cavalier fan, having lived about an hour from Charlottesville and going to their football and basketball games growing up.

I’ve recently become a Wrexham AFC fan after watching their show “Welcome to Wrexham” on TV and actually getting to go to a match at the Racecourse Ground last fall. That was an amazing experience and it’s such a great story.

What is Myrtle Beach building or renovating right now?

We are so fortunate in Myrtle Beach to have had great facilities built over the past ten or so years. Nothing new on that front for us at the moment, but we’re keeping up and making the capital improvements to keep them competitive in the marketplace.

Recent and upcoming events in Myrtle Beach:

Spring 2024 is going to be an unbelievable time for Myrtle Beach and sports. In addition to our week-in and week-out youth tournaments that are our absolute bedrock of sports tourism in the community, we are excited to have a few great sporting events coming to the Beach. We’re particularly excited to welcome back the SBD World’s Strongest Man in the first week of May, which is an amazing event with a passionate following from around the world.

Following immediately after will be the inaugural Myrtle Beach Classic, which is a new stop on the PGA Tour. Held at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club, we are excited to bring the PGA to the Golf Capital of the World. We will then wrap up May with the NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will be Myrtle Beach’s first-ever NCAA Championship event. All of this before we start our ten weeks of week-long summer baseball, softball and basketball events!

Get in contact with Jonathan