Read about the dramatic growth of tourism in Rutherford County, thanks to new hotels, first-rate facilities and services, and the county's official designation as the Sports Capital of Tennessee.
With added hotel rooms, improved and expanded event facilities, and a targeted marketing initiative, Rutherford County’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 tourism-related fields employed 2,290 people throughout the county.
“These visitors are temporary taxpayers, 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, Wolke notes, generate enough revenue to save each Rutherford County household $252.86 in taxes annually. In 2015, three new hotels within walking distance of Murfreesboro’s 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, and a TownePlace Suites and Home2 Suites will open there in 2016, along with a new Courtyard by Marriott in Murfreesboro.
Sports, Leisure Driving Growth
A strong economy, Rutherford County’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 Fulfillment and Nissan in the area. The sports segment of the market continues to boom, and the Rutherford County CVB secured the trademark 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 is Middle Tennessee State University’s newly renovated Murphy Center. In 2014, the 40-year-old athletic facility underwent a nearly $13 million revamp 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 County 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 County was the site of the USDAA Cynosport world championships in dog agility at MTSU’s Tennessee Miller Coliseum. The long-anticipated Adams Tennis Complex – a joint Murfreesboro-MTSU project – opened in July, offering eight indoor courts, two floors of spectator seating, a pro shop and a lounge. The $5.8 million complex enhances the county’s appeal as a top-notch tennis competition site.
The boom in sports has also prompted private venue development. Project 14 and Miracle League are teaming up with the City of Murfreesboro to bring a Miracle Field, which features a rubberized baseball field for children and adult ball players with disabilities, to McKnight Park. Another venue, The Murfreesboro Field House, opened in 2015 in a renovated facility, offering 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 County 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 were 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.”