The Rocky Top Sports World facility in Gatlinburg, Tenn., set to open its doors this summer, has been developed with the help of the Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA) to attract new visitors to the area in hopes of boosting the county’s economy.
Rocky Top Sports World encompasses an 80-acre campus equipped to fit the needs of turf and court-based athletics. The facility will house six youth basketball courts, 12 volleyball courts and seven soccer, lacrosse and football fields, as well as seven outdoor synthetic turf fields. The synthetic fields are from AstroTurf.
Sports tourism is an economic trend that is on the rise within the tourism industry. Dev Pathik, CEO of the SFA, recently commented in a Forbes Sports Money segment on the growth of youth competitive sports, which influences the sports tourism surge. SFA officials anticipate a $40 million economic impact for Gatlinburg within the first five years. For its first year, the facility has already attracted bookings of more than 30,000 visitors.
Some sports tourism facilities are reporting their busiest season for sport tourism to date. Other reports show sports tourism is helping alleviate some counties of their budget woes, such as Chesterfield County in Richmond, Va., which expects sports tourism events to bring in millions of dollars from taxes.
Sports tourism is ideally suited for existing tourist destinations that are family-oriented and that offer a wide range of hotel room rates, recreation amenities and dining and entertainment options, according to Pathik. Gatlinburg met this criteria due to its close proximity to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, which saw more than nine million recreation visits in 2010, the highest of any of the 58 national parks, according to National Parks Service.
“Rocky Top Sports World is part of a national trend that cities are engaged in to achieve new levels of visitor spending through sports tourism. Disney’s Wide World of Sports began this trend in 1997,” said Pathik. “Many tournament and event organizers are frustrated with cities that require teams to travel from one field to another between competitions; having everything in one place and having world-class playing surfaces is one key differentiator.”
Jerry Hayes, Gatlinburg’s Mayor, said he is confident that the area has the desired characteristics for a successful sports tourism facility and believes there is an opportunity for economic development in the city.
The video below gives a virtual tour of the facilities.