SportsEvents Magazine

FEB 2017

SportsEvents is edited for those who plan tournaments or other sports events.

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Page 10 of 59 February 2017 11 t SPORTS Talk GATLINBURG, TN — Lori McMahan Moore and her staff at Rocky Top Sports World have years of experience taking care of sporting event crowds, enjoying the passion and fun that permeates those events. But in November, they faced challenges like never before. On Nov. 28, 2016, a devastating wild fire raced through Gatlinburg eventually killing 14 and leaving thousands homeless. Moore and her staff acted swiftly. "We are very accustomed to running events and I think we do it exceptionally well," said Mc- Mahan Moore, general manager of Rocky Top Sports World. "It was just an event that we never expected to host. Our team transitioned very well into sheltering in a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a- week capacity." The first night of the tragedy, Rocky Top housed about 1,200 individuals. "That was people just sitting in chairs," McMahan Moore said. "No one slept that night. Every- one was all over the building." Eventually the overnight numbers fell to 600 and then 400. But throughout the ordeal the center offered food, medical attention and other comforts to residents and firefighters. "We stopped serving as a shelter on December 13, and we had an event with the UT (Univer- sity of Tennessee) football team on the afternoon of December 14," McMahan Moore said. "We were able to transition very well. We've hosted several events since then." The message McMahan hopes to spread is simple: Gatlinburg is back. "Obviously there are still remnants of the wild fires and things that we are trying to deal with, but the city of Gatlinburg is open and functioning," McMahan Moore said. "The attractions and restaurants that guests are accustomed to coming to are open and desperately need the business at this point in time to help the recovery effort." McMahan got to see her staff respond to challenging circumstances, and triumph. "I can't say enough about the staff, because they were doing this because these were their family and friends, and this is their community," McMahan Moore said. "There was no forcing them to work special shifts. They gladly did that. I think that speaks so well, and how blessed I am to have that type of staff." n Rocky Top To The Rescue Extraco Events Center by enacting a venue tax, according to the Waco Tribune. The added tax would affect only visitors staying in hotels or renting vehicles in the coun- ty and would fund the project aimed at attracting larger tournaments and exhibits to the Extraco Events Center. "It creates a sustainable model that has the opportunity to be funded through a venue tax that would not tax residents in any way but those who stay in hotels or motels or might rent cars," said Wes Allison, president and CEO of the Extraco Events Center. "The neat thing about this for me is this does not cost the citizens of McLennan County a penny. It's something that will fund itself." County commissioners passed a resolution in Janu- ary in support of fairground organizers' master plan for the overhaul. County, city of Waco and Waco Independent School District leaders now await approval from the Texas Comptroller's Office to ask residents to vote on implement- ing a 2 percent hotel and motel occupancy tax and a 5 percent rental car tax. Revenue from the tax could be used only to pay for sporting- or competi- tion-related purposes. The project would bring in new events and visitors, spur spinoff development and allow for destination branding and marketing, Allison said. The project is estimated to cost $34.37 million and include redevelopment of the entire 60-acre fairground site. Plans include an addi- tional $6.88 million for future phases. n

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