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More Than You Can Imagine: Rome, Georgia

31 Oct, 2011

By: Juli Anne Patty

Venues nestled in a historic downtown. Miles of mountain and river trails. Southern hospitality that takes any event to the next level of success.  

That’s not a wish list for the perfect sports destination, but a description of Rome, Georgia - the Southeast's unmatched destination for any sports event.  

With venues that can host the full range of sporting events and the optimal location as the geographic center between Atlanta, Georgia, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama, Rome creates a dream scenario for sports event planners.  

While the city celebrates its rich history, the citizens also value the many sports events hosted in their community each year by investing in the facilities.  

The NAIA Football National Championship will be played in Rome's freshly renovated Historic Barron Stadium through 2015. Photo courtesy of Alan Storey.

Historic Barron Stadium

The Historic Barron Stadium has been a centerpiece of the community for more than 100 years. While generations of Romans have fond memories of games at Barron, the stadium recently entered a whole new era of competition play.  

“A local developer wanted to redevelop the stadium area, and although that idea didn’t work out, it got people thinking. It’s really a unique thing to have a stadium downtown, and the city commission decided to keep it there and transform it into one of the state's premier venues,” says Sammy Rich, assistant city manager, city of Rome. The stadium is connected to the life of downtown, Broad Street, by a pedestrian bridge that spans the Oostanaula River.  

In a move that underscores the importance of both sports and Barron Stadium to the people of Rome, the citizens approved a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, in 2010 to raise funding for the renovation. Nearing completion of the $3.4 million dollar project, Barron Stadium now has a new synthetic turf field, a 12 x 22-foot high-definition LCD scoreboard, a renovated press box, new locker rooms and bathrooms, new lighting, a new stadium entrance and an eight-lane Beynon track surface, meeting all NCAA, NAIA and IAAF standards. 

Barron Stadium now also houses seating for more than 6,500 spectators, which is a good thing, since the venue is the four-time host of the NAIA Football National Championship, an event staying—and growing— in Rome until at least 2015.

NAIA Football National Championship

Just as Barron Stadium is a centerpiece of Rome’s sports culture, the city also embraces each sports event and makes it an honored part of the community. The Russell Athletic NAIA Football National Championship is the perfect example.  

The championship not only gives Rome a chance to show off itsspectacular new stadium, it also offers the city an opportunity to use one of its other exceptional assets: Southern hospitality. Since 2008, more than 10,000 out-of-town visitors have traveled to Rome for the annual championship event.

Tennis

Tennis already has a pretty impressive home in Rome, with 38 public courts available throughout the city as well as 16 lighted courts at the Rome/Floyd Tennis Center. But this city is about to become the true Southeastern tennis headquarters. 

Currently in development, The Tennis Center of Georgia at Berry College will be the world's largest tennis facility for amateur play. An 82-court facility, the Tennis Center of Georgia will feature 57 regulation-size (60-foot x 120-foot) hard surface courts including six covered courts and six stadium style courts. There will also be nine 60-foot QuickStart Courts and 16 36-foot QuickStart courts, both of which are designed for tennis lessons for players age 10 and under.

The Tennis Center of Georgia at Berry College is currently in development and will be the largest tennis center in the world with 82 courts. Photo courtesy of Max Wave Media.

The center’s adjacent Tennis Support Facility will be a 10,500-square-foot building with a large viewing deck, meeting and event space, a cafe and snack bar, tennis pro shop, locker rooms and office space for tennis organizers. 

An initial economic impact study revealed that the facility will generate over $13 million per year for the local economy, and the Tennis Center of Georgia Task Force is currently working to develop the project through both public and private funds.  

"The cooperation between the our local governments, Berry College, private investors and the United States Tennis Association on the development of the Tennis Center of Georgia prove that Rome is destined to become the center of tennis in the Southeast," said Lisa Smith, executive director of the Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau.  

The Rome Braves, a Single-A Affiliate of the Rome Braves, play in the state-of-the-art State Mutual Stadium that seats over 5000. Photo courtesy of Rome Braves.

State Mutual Stadium

Rome is also home to the Rome Braves, the Class A Minor League Atlanta Braves affiliate, as well as their state-of-the-art facility, State Mutual Stadium. Completed in 2003 as a SPLOST project, State Mutual Stadium seats 5,000 and offers 14 luxury boxes, state-of-the-art AV technology, a full-service restaurant, six concession areas and a group pavilion. The facility hosts softball and baseballs tournaments, but that’s not the Braves’ only contribution. A true part of the community, the Braves have recently presented the city of Rome with a miracle. 

This fall, ground was broken on the Braves Miracle Field of Rome, a facility created of special materials safe for children with disabilities. A partnership between the Atlanta Braves Foundation, local government and private donors, the Miracle Field, located next to State Mutual Stadium, will have its next celebration—a grand opening—in the fall of 2012. 

The Forum

Located in the heart of downtown on the banks of the Oostanaula River, The Forum is a multi-use complex that has experience in hosting every indoor event from arena football to sport cup stacking.  

The 5,000-seat arena is adjacent to the newly completed Town Green that features interactive fountains, green space and a five-story parking deck.  

"Many planners that come to Rome for tennis, soccer or any other outdoor sport also take advantage of the versatility and location of The Forum for team banquets and meetings," said Smith.  

Adaptive sport events garner large amounts of support throughout the Rome community. Photo courtesy of Greater Rome CVB.

Cycling

Rome is home to a number of new and growing cycling events, including the Winter Cyclocross Series, the annual Clocktower Classic and dozens of pro-am races.  

The only timed stage race specifically for handcycles, Rome’s Clocktower Classic Handcycle Race recently expanded to four days and five stages of racing. The sixth annual Classic was the first domestic race to include the newest discipline for the Paralympics, a team relay.  

“I’m on the US Handcycling Board of Directors and whole-heartedly believe adaptive sports are an integral part of our society,” says Ann Hortman, sports marketing and events coordinator, Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau. “There really aren’t enough opportunities for athletes with disabilities, which is why we’re so proud to have the Clocktower Classic and the new Miracle Field. Adaptive sports are a very important part of our sports community.”

Trails

Rome and Floyd County have also invested considerable planning and capital in creating a beautiful multi-use trail system. The Robert F. Redden footbridge was Georgia’s first Rails to Trails project in 1976.  Since then, miles of pedestrian trails have been added, connecting major destinations within the community, with ongoing plans for more trails and a vision to connect, eventually, with Georgia’s Silver Comet Trail, a 61-mile walking/biking path in Western Georgia. 

The city is also in the process of adding a new trail to its system, a network of mountain biking trails on historic Jackson Hill. 

“It’s a wonderful site, in the middle of an urban area, but you feel like you’re really secluded. It’s also a historically significant piece of land for our town, the site of civil war history as well as the original waterworks of our city,” says Rich. “Each section tells its own story, so we’re working on connecting all those sections with trails and signage. The new trail will begin its life as a venue this fall with a youth mountain biking event.”

Destination Rome

Sports have a central role in Rome, but the area is also just as rich in attractions with a thriving arts community, golf courses set into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, historic sites, museums, the Rome Symphony Orchestra—the oldest symphony in the South—and the historic downtown “Between the Rivers District.”  

With Russell Regional Airport just outside of town, over 1,300 guest rooms available and 200 locally owned and national chain restaurants, Rome is more than ready to take on any sports event and make it a celebrated part of the community. Visit www.SportsInRome.org to find out more.

 

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