PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – Rocky Top Sports World was originally built as a way to increase tourism in the area, but when the deadly wildfires caused so much devastation, it became less about bringing in guests and more about taking care of its own.
It was important work serving as a shelter, but after all the guests left, remaining open after is what helped Gatlinburg heal more than anything.
“We were just very lucky to have this building here,” said Lori Moore, Rocky Top Sports World general manager.
Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg is no stranger to hosing big events, but when devastating wildfires moved through the area, it would one of its biggest and arguably most important: serving as a shelter.
“We do events, so it was not an event we ever planned on hosting. But we were absolutely blessed to be able to open this facility up to the community and serve in that capacity,” said Moore. “We all had one common goal and it was surviving that disaster.”
While they did, they didn’t come out completely unscathed.
“Unfortunately with the wind the bleachers just flipped over themselves and these poor trees just suffered from it, but that’s all it was, just a process and I’m really glad it’s just getting back to normal,” said Haley Fugate, marketing and sponsorship manager. “We really wanted to make sure that people knew that we were still here and we were going to be back on our feet in no time.”
They really meant no time.
“When we got back on our feet and hosting our normal weekday activities, you could just see their faces. They were back somewhere they were familiar with,” said Fugate.
The kids were also back to playing sports which is a big part of their lives and a beating heart of this community.
“To have a place where they can come, wonderful facilities, state of the art turf fields and basketball courts that they can take pride in and know that this is a part of their hometown,” said Moore. “Watching these kids do something they love and find their passion it’s just a gift for our staff to be a part of that.”
The staff at Rocky Top Sports World saw how important it was for kids and families to have a place to go to create a sense of normalcy after the wildfire caused so much destruction.
“When they get out here on the field they can drop every worry that they have, some of these kids, we don’t know but some of these kids could have lost everything and they get to drop it for a couple hours and play on some of the best facilities in the country,” said Fugate.