Rutherford Tourism Continues Boom
Sporting events, savvy marketing bring big revenue to the area
With added hotel rooms, improved and expanded event facilities and a targeted marketing initiative, Rutherford’s tourism industry has enjoyed vigorous growth in the past year, putting it in the top 10 counties statewide for tourism revenues.
The numbers paint a compelling picture. Tourism had an economic impact on the county in 2014 of $307 million dollars, an increase of 5.5 percent over 2013. Visitors generated $17.93 million in state taxes and $6.53 million in local taxes, and 2,294 people in the county were employed in tourism-related fields.
“These visitors are temporary tax payers, who stay in our hotels, shop in our retail outlets, and dine in our restaurants,” says Barbara Wolke, vice president of the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Rutherford County hotels have experienced record hotel occupancies and revenues this year.”
These temporary taxpayers, she notes, generate enough revenue to save each Rutherford household $252.86 in taxes annually.
In 2015, three new hotels within walking distance of the Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center, the Hilton Garden Inn, the Residence Inn and a full-service Holiday Inn, brought hundreds of additional rooms online. A new Candlewood Suites opened in Smyrna, a Town Place Suites and Home2 Suites, also in Smyrna, will open in 2016, and Courtyard by Marriott in Murfreesboro will open in spring 2016.
A strong economy, Rutherford’s location within a day’s drive of 75 percent of the country’s population, and its first-rate facilities and services have helped drive the tourism boom. Leisure travel is up, Wolke says, as is corporate travel, due in large part to the presence of Amazon and Nissan in the area. The sports segment of the market continues to boom, earning Rutherford its official designation as Sports Capital of Tennessee.
“Our convention and visitors bureau is a one-stop shop for conference and event planners, with strong relationships with hotels and community partners to execute and implement sporting events effortlessly,” Wolke says.
Among the sports venues attracting tournaments and competitions for both youth and adult athletics are Middle Tennessee State University’s newly renovated Murphy Center. In 2014 the 40-year-old athletic facility underwent a nearly $13 million spruce-up that included new lighting, HVAC system, bathrooms and concession areas. The center, and other venues in the Murphy complex, annually host youth, collegiate and adult sports events, including basketball, tennis, track and field, and soccer.
A number of Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) events are held in Rutherford each year, including Spring Fling, an Olympic-style competition in five sports, and the U.S. Soccer National President’s Cup and other large competitions at the Richard Siegel Park, a high-quality 15-field complex.
Other sports find a place to play here too, from softball to bowling to foot golf. In 2015 Rutherford was the site of the USDAA Cynosport world championships in dog agility at MTSU’s Tennessee Miller Coliseum. The long-anticipated Adams Indoor Tennis complex, a joint Murfreesboro-MTSU project, opened in July, offering eight tennis courts, two floors of spectator seating, a pro shop and lounge. The $5.8 million complex will enhance the county’s appeal as a top-notch tennis competition site.
The boom in sports has also prompted private venue development, such as the Murfreesboro Field House. The complex, which opened in 2015 in a renovated facility, offers indoor turf fields for soccer and baseball, four basketball courts and space for sports academies for young children. The center is already jammed with events, and its parent company, Field House LLC, plans major expansions.
“People love to come to Middle Tennessee, and we have the land, the backers and the ability to build a facility that would absorb 42,000 room nights,” says Trigg Wilkes of Field House LLC, which professionally manages a variety of youth sports events. He says the success of the Rutherford facility is welcome, if unsurprising.
“It was a blessing for us that the foundation of a great group of local role models, like (basketball player) Alexa Middleton and (baseball’s) David Price, good athletes and good people was already in place,” Wilkes says. “Of all the facilities I have opened over the years, I have never found a community that was as appreciative.”
The Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau has earned numerous salutes from travel industry professionals. In 2015 it won ConventionSouth’s Readers’ Choice Award for providing one of the Best Meeting Sites in the South. Other accolades:
ConventionSouth Editors’ Picks: 2014
South’s Surprising Recreational Havens for Groups
ConventionSouth Editors’ Picks: 2014
South’s Best Destination Apps & Mobile Sites
ConventionSouth: Readers’ Choice Award 2013, 2014, 2015
Best Meeting Sites in the South
Constant Contact 2013 and 2014 All Star Award