It is often said that even the visiting team feels at home in Rome, Georgia. Renowned Southern hospitality is only exceeded by the quality and quantity of sporting event venues. Surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, and its optimal location - the geographic center between Atlanta, Georgia, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, this location leaves no doubt as to why event planners come back again and again to this picturesque Southern town.
The citizens of Rome and Floyd County understand the value of sporting events and the benefit to the community, so much so, they have invested one penny. A Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax (SPLOST) penny sales tax has funded many state of the art projects and facilities, putting Rome on the map. From the first SPLOST passed in 1986 to the 2017 SPLOST approved in November, the 1-cent tax has been responsible for over $350 million worth of local projects.
State Mutual Stadium, home of the Rome Braves, Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, was completed in 2003 for $19 million. Rome is one of the smallest communities in the country with a full-season team, and fans still fill the stands that seat over 5,000. The stadium has hosted the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, Georgia High School Baseball Championships, and Gulf South Conference Baseball Championships. Adjacent to State Mutual Stadium is the Rome Braves Miracle Field – a state-of-the-art facility with a latex-free rubber field that is fully wheelchair accessible
Historic Barron Stadium, located in the heart of downtown Rome, seats 6,500 and is home to the Shorter University Hawks and Rome High Football Teams. SPLOST improvements equaling $3.4million were made in 2009, including artificial turf, new lighting, press box enhancements, a video scoreboard and track & field upgrades to adhere to USA Track & Field standards. Barron Stadium has hosted the NAIA Football National Championship Game; NCCAA, Peach Belt Athletic Conference, Mid-South Athletic Conference, and Southern States Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
The Forum River Center has a 20,000-square-foot arena and seats 4,000. A multi-purpose facility, the Forum has hosted regional basketball and wrestling tournaments, cheer competitions and an annual bull riding competition. The Forum is also a perfect site for banquets and concerts.
Alto Park Softball Complex is home to the Shorter University Hawks Softball Team. A total of eight fields make up the complex with the collegiate field recently updated to be NCAA compliant. Alto Park served as the site for the 2008 and 2009 Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament, as well as the host for the Shorter University Softball Invitational, ISA Girls Slow Pitch World Softball Tournament and Georgia ACA Girls All-Star Softball Showcase.
Rome’s newest facility is the nation’s largest hard court tennis facility – Rome Tennis Center at Berry College – with 60 lighted courts, including six NCAA courts and three center courts. The facility was built at a cost of $11.9 million and opened in July 2016.
Over 40 United States Tennis Association (USTA) tournaments are held each year, including the USTA Georgia Adult League State Championships, USTA Southern Junior Team Tennis Championships and the USTA Girls 14 National Championship. History was made this past April while hosting the ACC Men’s & Women’s Tennis Championships by running four consecutive matches on 24 courts. Berry College donated the land to build the facility, which is evidence of how public/private partnerships can work together to enhance the sports culture.
Beyond state-of-the-art facilities that are surprising to find in a smaller town, Rome's natural landscape makes it the ideal location for sports events like running and cycling. Rome is home to the Clocktower Classic Handcycle Stage Race, a world-class handcycling event unique in the USA. This five-stage race takes place over four days of racing, including a grueling hill climb road race, 13-kilometer time trial, 50-kilometer road race and 40-minute downtown criterium to challenge an elite field of athletes from across the globe.
Rome Sports director, Ann Hortman, has been instrumental in bringing adaptive sports to Rome and as a result, the community has embraced the unique events. This spring, Rome will host an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Wheelchair Tennis Tournament featuring 60 players from the USA and as far away as Japan, Europe, South America and South Africa.
“This tournament is the only one of its kind in the USA, and we are excited to be hosting the top players in the world,” said Tom Daglis, Rome Tennis Center executive director. “The whole community is involved from volunteering on court, serving meals or driving shuttles” said Daglis. "One of the advantages of working with Rome Sports is their exceptional service. Ann works closely with our hospitality partners to make sure everything off the courts runs smoothly."
"Our services are completely free to event planners and include everything from planning your site visit to executing and ensuring a successful event,” said Hortman.
"We invite you to come out to Rome and see what all the excitement is about. You'll be hooked and set on having your event in Rome," added Hortman. "Rome has a powerful sense of community and an innate appreciation for sports and competition. All of our civic, educational, governmental, and business organizations work together to ensure events are executed perfectly. There's a tremendous sense of cooperation in event planning - everyone from public safety to parks and recreation, local media to the entire hospitality industry; it's a win-win for everyone."
For more information about hosting an event in Rome, go to www.romesports.org or call 1-800-444-1834.