The Great Smoky Mountains Sports Escape
28 Apr, 2015By: Juli Anne Patty
Sports traveling families have wish lists, and although every family is unique, those wish lists have a lot in common: exceptional sports facilities and great competitions, not to mention desirable lodging, plentiful restaurants, attractions and activities that are both budget-friendly and fun. You might say, then, that the people of Sevierville, Tennessee, are in the business of making wishes come true.
Sports event organizers know that a primary rule of planning a successful event is to locate that event in a place that participants and their families already want to visit. As the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Sevierville is a peaceful mountain oasis just miles away from endless action and excitement.
Sports Come First
Sevierville doesn’t come by its outstanding sports reputation accidentally. The area actually started with a sports-focused strategy, building a cutting-edge convention center that brings together every element required for a slam-dunk sports event, along with a few extraordinary features right next door.
The Sevierville Convention Center offers an expansive 240,000 square foot space, able to be divided or used all together as one impressive event space. That’s enough space to fit 21 volleyball courts and hundreds of enthusiastic fans. Just take it from K2 Volleyball, a competitive travel volleyball program for girls and boys ages 7-18, which has brought events to the Sevierville Convention Center for the past five years. K2 events allow the staff at the Convention Center the opportunity to show what really sets their facility apart.
“We’re not just a convention center, and we’re not just in the event business,” says Kelly DeBord, marketing communications, Sevierville Convention Center. “We are in the relationship business, and it’s the human factor that defines our success.”
When K2 comes to town, there’s quite a human factor to coordinate. Often, the organization runs three tournaments over three weekends, with more than 400 teams coming from locations all over the Southeast.
The Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) offers cheers for Sevierville as well.
“We have enjoyed working with the Sevierville Convention Center and its staff for many years,” said Carlos Munoz Jr., national director, UCA. “The professionalism, courtesy and willingness of their staff to make sure our event runs smoothly is always a priority. Communication is the key to the success of any event and the events team from the Sevierville Convention Center is top notch. We look forward to our continued partnership.”
Volleyball, cheer and dance competitions are just a few of the sports that have flocked to the Sevierville Convention Center since it opened in September 2007. The facility provides ample and flexible space with plentiful seating, making it ideal for a wide range of events. Logistically speaking, the Convention Center also offers a home run setup. Located just eight miles from Interstate 40 via a six-lane highway, the Sevierville Convention Center makes large-scale transportation easy and the load-in/load-out process even simpler, with a large outdoor marshaling area, a 10-bay loading dock behind the building and rear main hall entrances that allow vehicles to drive directly onto the exhibition floor.
While the Convention Center has every technical and logistical base covered, DeBord is quick to remind guests that what she and her staff want to do is help create memorable experiences. “What’s really amazing about this job is when an event is coming up over the weekend, and you get a call from a parent who needs to know if we have handicap accessibility because an athlete’s grandparent really wants to come to the event,” says DeBord. “Being able to say yes, and being able to create these experiences for people, that’s what we’re all about.”
It’s no surprise, with that combination of specs and service, that the Sevierville Convention Center is booked 43 out of 52 weeks this year.
An Unforgettable Experience
The next element in Sevierville’s sports-centric complex is a facility that combines outstanding lodging with beyond-exciting entertainment. Located beside the Convention Center, Wilderness at the Smokies resort is a year-round vacation destination in its own right, as well as the perfect lodging option for sports event participants and their families.
The resort’s rapid growth demonstrates the explosion of its popularity. The resort opened in June 2008 with the Stone Hill Lodge and Salamander Springs outdoor waterpark, and just six months later, River Lodge and the 60,000-square-foot Wild WaterDome indoor waterpark were added. In May 2009, Wilderness at the Smokies expanded again with the addition of Lake Wilderness, the resort’s second outdoor waterpark. In 2012, the Adventure Forest family adventure center opened.
“We have several great things to offer at our resort that combine to make this a great destination for a sports event or competition,” says Nikki Harrell, director of sales, Wilderness at the Smokies. “Lots of people who attend or participate in sports either do so as a family or families travel together to cheer on the individual involved. Our location at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with its natural beauty and the huge variety of activities for families to do before, during and after their sporting activities held here at our resort make this area an ideal location. And once people have traveled to get here for their sporting event, it’s easy to take a day or several more days and turn it into a family vacation.”
Wilderness at the Smokies truly offers something for every age group, with Sevierville Golf Club’s 36-hole championship golf course, over 700 rooms and suites, the Adventure Forest family adventure center with a variety of indoor “dry” attractions, a variety of dining and shopping areas, indoor and outdoor waterparks, a wave pool and the Southeast’s only Surf Rider, hot tubs and countless waterslides.
Beyond the Competition
An outstanding sports event located next door to a world-class lodging and entertainment complex, all just miles from America’s most visited national park—sound like enough? Well, Sevierville is just getting started.
“In larger markets, things can become very expensive very quickly, but we’re known as a value destination,” says Amanda Marr, Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. “In Sevierville, you can attend a sports event and have a family vacation experience on any budget. Plus, we’ve got such a variety of things, more than you’d expect from a small town, that you can come year after year.”
Home of Dolly Parton, Sevierville is also home to Dollywood Amusement Park, one of its most famous attractions. Families looking for a natural adventure can, of course, hike the miles of Smoky Mountains trails or explore the “Forbidden Caverns” below the ancient mountains. The city is home to Rainforest Adventures, one of America’s finest small zoos, and Smoky Mountain Knife Works, a store and showroom that displays knives, blades and swords of untold varieties. More than a million people visit the store’s displays each year.
If your event draws adventure-seekers, Sevierville can deliver. The perfect place to check off your bucket list, Sevierville offers miles of ziplining and rivers for canoeing, kayaking and rafting, along with Smoky Mountain aerial tours and horseback trail rides.
Golf is another serious Sevierville sport, with the Sevierville Golf Club’s two 18-hole championship courses just steps away from the Convention Center. If baseball’s your passion, take in a Tennessee Smokies game and cheer on the AA affiliates of the Chicago Cubs.
Many visitors are drawn to Sevierville’s shopping, where finding great deals is just as competitive as any athletic event. More than 100 high-end outlet stores like Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors draw millions of people each year.
Make Memories in the Smokies
Sports events are about competition, but they’re also about fun. Select a destination that can help your participants and their families make cherished memories, and you will build a following for a lifetime. Find out more at www.visitsevierville.com and www.seviervilleconventioncenter.com.