It’s the peak of summer and for many, football might be a thought for the hazy future – but many aren’t the staff of Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg. The destination held three youth gridiron events in June alone – and it’s nowhere near done. SDM sat down with MacKenzie King, marketing and sponsorship manager, to learn about the showcases and camps the facility is hosting and what its plans are for the future.
Sports Destination Management: How many football events did Rocky Top host in June?
Mackenzie King: Rocky Top Sports World held three football events in June; they are as follows:
- Great Smoky Mountain Youth All Star Showcase hosted by Football America
- Summer Specialists Camp hosted by James Wilhoit
- Showtime Elite Showcase hosted by Showtime Athletics
SDM: Any idea of how many athletes per event, and in what age groups?
King: Yes, it was a total of 811 athletes; here is the complete breakdown:
- Great Smoky Mountain Youth All Star Showcase - 7U to 14U: 220 Athletes
- Summer Specialists Camp: 31 Athletes - Ages 10 - 18
- Showtime Elite Showcase: 560 Athletes - 2nd grade – 9th grade
SDM: Did spectators attend and if so, how many were there?
King: Yes! Spectators were allowed at each of these events. The Great Smoky Mountain Youth All Star Showcase had 336 spectators. The Summer Specialists Camp had 46 spectators and the Showtime Elite Showcase had 858 spectators.
SDM: Did you have to adhere to any medical guidance regarding COVID?
King: Our venue continues to follow guidance from the CDC, state and local government.
SDM: Any estimation on the room night and/or economic impact of the events?
King: We actually do have a breakdown of that. The Great Smoky Mountain Youth All Star Showcase: $153,596 EI and 236 room nights; the Summer Specialists Camp had $21,271 EI and 33 room nights, and the Showtime Elite Showcase had $1,044,599 EI and 1,604 room nights.
SDM: Were any of the events new this year, or were they returning to the facility?
King: Both the Great Smoky Mountain Youth All Star Showcase and the Summer Specialists Camp were return events. The Showtime Elite Showcase was a new event in 2021.
SDM: Post-pandemic, are you seeing a pent-up demand for football events?
King: Overall, we are seeing an increased demand for football events, traditional youth football events, 7v7 football and All Star/All American events.
Specifically looking at 7v7 football for example, our venue hosted two 7v7 events in the current fiscal year that combined for 144 teams. In the past four fiscal years combined, we only saw 210 teams. And looking forward, our venue already has three 7v7 football events booked next year.
Additionally, this past fiscal year there were four All Star/All American events held. Since our venue opened in 2014, there had previously only been one All Star event.
SDM: It sounds like people are discovering Rocky Top as a football destination. What do you think makes it so popular for that sport?
King: Rocky Top Sports World is an ideal location for football events. Our venue is comprised of seven outdoor fields, six of which are synthetic turf and one is natural grass. We also have a championship stadium field on site.
Offering tournament planners, coaches, teams and spectators a one-of-a-kind sporting event, the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park creates a sports destination rivaled by no other. Rocky Top Sports World is designed to make every event a mountaintop experience.
SDM: Is Rocky Top expecting to welcome other football events this summer? How about in the months beyond that?
King: Throughout the remainder of the 2021 summer, our venue is slated to host many events! All of our events can be found here on our website. But specifically looking at summer football, our venue will be the host location for the Kohl’s Professional Camps National Elite Camp, a collection of the best older specialists in America, as well as their National Invitational Scholarship Camp, America’s premier event for kickers, punters and snappers. Those events will be occurring on July 22-23, and July 24-25, respectively.
Looking forward to the fall, Rocky Top Sports World hosts both the Thanksgiving Bowl National Championship and the Gatlinburg All American Bowl each year. The Thanksgiving Bowl National Championship is open to 6U to 14U teams and will take place November 24-27, 2021. This event has been a Gatlinburg tradition since 1972! The Gatlinburg All American Bowl is the premier post-season opportunity for private and home school high school players to showcase their skills. Games are played in both 8- and 11-man formats allowing athletes skilled in each group the opportunity to participate. The second annual event will take place December 16-18, 2021.