Lori McMahan Moore, general manager of Rocky Top Sports World, never imagined how important the facility would become to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But the sports center created to assist the community financially through events served a higher purpose late last year.
Rocky Top transformed into a shelter facility Nov. 28 through Dec. 13, 2016, when wildfires in the Smoky Mountains devastated local residents’ homes. While the facility’s staff was not immune to the damage that captured national attention, the team played its part.
“Any time you’re in a small, close-knit community, you can’t help but be personally affected by it,” says Moore. “To be of service for those who needed it at that time was the greatest thing we could have done.”
Perhaps more importantly to the region’s long-term health, Rocky Top hosted The University of Tennessee’s football team Dec. 14 for an event that went on as previously scheduled.
“It’s never been more important for us to continue our events so we can bring people from around the country to see Gatlinburg is a great town everyone loves to be a part of,” says Moore.
Perception is the region’s current enemy. Moore says the reality is last year’s fires never damaged Gatlinburg’s downtown. Few realize that fact, she fears.
“People throughout the country think Gatlinburg has burned to the ground or that our mountains are devastated—and that’s just not the case,” Moore says. “We’re open for business and we’re good to go.”