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Rocky Top Sports World Poised to Capitalize on Sports Tourism Boom – Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA) Predicts $30 Million Economic Impact

March 12, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Sports tourism is an economic trend that is on the rise within the tourism industry – Dev Pathik, CEO of the Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA), recently commented in a Forbes Sports Money segment on the growth of youth competitive sports, which is largely the impetus for the sports tourism surge.

The Rocky Top Sports World facility in Gatlinburg, TN, set to open its doors summer 2014, has been developed with the help of the SFA to attract new visitors to the area and boost the overall economy. SFA officials anticipate a $40 million economic impact forGatlinburg within the first five years of Rocky Tops’ opening.  Under SFA’s leadership, the facility has already attracted bookings totaling more than 30,000 visitors into the market for year one. Island Hopping

Recent press indicates that some sports tourism facilities are reporting their busiest season for sport tourism to date – attracting large crowds to the area and filling local hotels (1). Other reports show sports tourism is helping alleviate some counties of their budget woes, such as Chesterfield County, in Richmond Virginia which expects sport tourism events to bring millions of dollars to the county in the form of of taxes from hotels, restaurants and shops (2). According to Pathik, sports tourism is ideally suited for existing tourism destinations that are family-oriented and that offer a wide range of hotel room rates, recreation amenities and dining and entertainment options – criteria which the city of Gatlinburg met due to its close proximity to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, which saw more than 9 million recreation visits in 2010, the highest of any of the 58 national parks (3).

“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 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 once place and having world-class playing surfaces is one key differentiator.”

Mayor of Gatlinburg, Jerry Hayes, says he is confident that the Gatlinburg area has all of the desired characteristics for a successful sports tourism facility and believes there is an opportunity for economic development in the city.

“Rocky Top Sports World will attract events and tournaments to the area that would not otherwise be here – and with these tournaments comes the opportunity for increased economic activity in within our community,” said Hayes. “Being that Rocky Top Sports World is located at the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the facility offers visiting teams and family members access to a unique sports vacation market – and the success of Rocky Top Sports World will influence our future plans to expand Gatlinburg’s sports recreation offerings.”

Rocky Top Sports World encompasses an 80 acre campus equipped to fit the needs of turf and court-based athletes. With indoor and outdoor facilities, the venue is one of the most significant sports tourism developments to open in 2014.  The facility will house six youth basketball courts, twelve volleyball courts, and 7 soccer/lacrosse/football fields, as well as a championship football stadium. The indoor facilities are for a wide range of sports and special events. Outside, there are seven lighted, full-sized outdoor fields with state-of-the-art synthetic turf (4).

SFA developed Rocky Top’s business model, management plan, economic impact and cash flow forecast. Upon funding by theCity of Gatlinburg and Sevier County, SFA’s management company 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.

SFA officials encourage sport tourism as an effective way to boost local economies that, in turn, will benefit all users of public services. SFA’s portfolio includes more than $3.5 billion in planned and operational facilities, as well as being the industry leader in the managing of such complexes.  The company will assist in opening more than 1.5 million acres of additional indoor facilities, as well as 600 acres of outdoor facilities, within the next year.

For more information about the Sports Facilities Advisory and its suite of planning-funding-opening-management services, visit

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