Gatlinburg’s newest sports recreation facility, Rocky Top Sports World, will celebrate its grand opening in early September—the facility already boasts over 30,000 visitors booked in year one and is predicted to draw guests to an already tourist-laden area due to the adjacent Smoky Mountains.
The Rocky Top Sports World facility in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, recently opened its doors in the midst of the sports tourism boom, which some deem to be one of the fastest-growing U.S. industries—reportedly, some sports tourism facilities are experiencing their busiest season for sport tourism to date, attracting large crowds to their respective areas and filling local hotels. (1) Rocky Top Sports World, developed with the help of the Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA) and its sister company, Sports Facilities Management (SFM), was designed to attract new visitors to the area and boost the overall economy, which SFA-SFM officials(www.sportadvisory.com/home.html) predict will achieve a $30 million economic impact for Gatlinburg within the first five years of Rocky Tops’ opening. While the state-of-the-art facility only officially opened July 1 of this year, Rocky Top’s first events were held July 11-13, and it has already attracted bookings totaling more than 30,000 visitors into the market for year one. Rocky Top Sports World’s grand opening will be held on September 9, 2014.
The recession-proof nature of youth sports travel and tourism has come to light in recent years, with reports that youth sports is now a $7 billion industry in travel alone. (2) Per a city commission study that takes into account hotels, restaurants, gas, apparel, Dollywood, Jurassic Park rides and approximately 1.5 spectators per trip, Rocky Top has already booked $10 million dollars in economic impact—surpassing the city’s first year goal with 28 signed contracts to date. According to SFA-SFM CEO Dev Pathik, Rocky Top’s location in Gatlinburg is ideally situated for the growing segment of sports tourism due to its family-oriented nature and abundance of recreation amenities and entertainment options. In addition, Rocky Top will be able to capitalize on its close proximity to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, per Pathik.
“The key differentiator between Rocky Top and other sports recreation facilities is that [Rocky Top] is positioned in a way that prevents players and their families from having to travel from one field to another between competitions—we strove to keep everything in one place and to create a vacation experience for our visitors,” said Pathik.
Rocky Top Sports World features seven athletic fields over an 80-acre complex that includes an outdoor play area, pavilion, picnic tables, and 1,200 parking spaces. Nicknamed “the Rock,” the 86,000 sq. ft. indoor facility houses six indoor basketball courts and is configurable for 12 volleyball courts. Onsite restaurant Champs Grill provides indoor and outdoor dining, and the facility also features team rooms, a hospitality area and a viewing mezzanine.
The $22 million complex was funded through a joint venture between the City of Gatlinburg and Sevier County after the two entities recognized that Rocky Top held the potential to attract state, regional and national visitors for competitive tournaments in a wide variety of sports, including traditional and non-traditional events. Sevier County already hosts more than 12 million visitors per year, and Gatlinburg officials believe that Rocky Top adds a new dimension to the area’s existing appeal, resulting in more guests throughout the year.
Mayor of Gatlinburg Jerry Hayes previously stated his belief in Gatlinburg’s future as a tourist hotspot, and welcomes further economic development in the city.
“It is our goal that Rocky Top Sports World brings athletes and their families to the area, presenting every opportunity for higher economic activity within the area—the result of which would create a getaway destination unlike any other throughout the nation,” said Hayes.
While Rocky Top is geared towards sports travel and tourism, the youth sports facility will be open to the community during off-peak hours.
SFA developed Rocky Top’s business model, management plan, economic impact and cash flow forecast. Upon funding by the City of Gatlinburg and Sevier County, SFM was engaged to assume day-to-day operational responsibility, including the booking and management of tournaments and events, as well as managing facilities to support its government client’s objectives.
For more information about SFA, SFM and the available suite of planning-funding-opening-management services, visit www.sportadvisory.com.
About Sports Facilities Advisory and Sports Facilities Management (SFA-SFM):
The Sports Facilities Advisory and Sports Facilities Management (SFA-SFM) is the leading resource in sports facility planning and management. SFA-SFM has helped to plan, fund, open and manage many multimillion-dollar sports complexes in communities throughout the USA and internationally since its founding in 2003. The expansive growth youth team sports and sports-related tourism has necessitated better quality facility management. SFA’s proprietary data system—based on years of planning, funding and managing facilities, coupled with the rise of the youth sports segment—is the engine behind the development of SFM. Since its recent inception, SFM has already become an industry leader in the managing of amateur sports and events complexes, and along with SFA, provides the planning, financing and management expertise needed to turn ideas into successful recreation facilities. SFA-SFM serves both public and private clients. Its services fall into four main categories: plan, fund, open and manage, which encompass every phase from early stage feasibility studies to preparing financing documents, overseeing development and opening and full-time management services. SFA-SFM’s success depends upon its mission to dramatically improve communities through the opening or optimization of sports and recreation centers. For more information, visit www.sportadvisory.com/home.html.
1. Visit My Smokies Announces New Facility for Sporting Events in Gatlinburg. heraldtribune.com/article/20140219/ARTICLE/140219577 Web. Feb. 20, 2014.
2. Koba, Mark. “Spending Big on Kids’ Sports? You’re Not Alone.” CNBC.com. N.p., 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 June 2014. cnbc.com/id/101326773#.