Rockwood may seek hotel help

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By Cindy Simpson

Could Rockwood support a hotel?

Officials would like to find out, hoping the revenue generator would do well, especially during baseball season when teams and their families fill area Harriman hotels and spill into other areas.

City officials are looking at hiring a hotel consulting firm, Diamond Hotel Consulting Group, to do a feasibility study  according to Mayor James Watts.

From fishing tournaments kicking off at Tom Fuller Park to more ball tournaments, Rockwood officials see opportunities for tourism dollars.

“The Rockwood portion of Watts Bar Lake is very under-utilized, in my opinion,” said City Administrator Becky Ruppe. “There is not a prettier place anywhere.”

“Another example is last weekend’s ball games,” Ruppe added, referring to Dixie Youth tournaments played in Rockwood. “Over 500 ballplayers, coaches, family and friends stayed in Harriman, Kingston, Spring City, Crossville, Lenoir City and as far away as Knoxville. All that is tourism dollars and hotel-motel tax dollars we lost.”

“We host the fishing and sports tournaments, and all the cities around us reap the benefit,” Ruppe said. “It is proven where a tourist spends the night is where they spend most of their money. All the restaurants in Harriman were swamped every day during the tournament.”

Councilwoman Peggy Evans was skeptical.

She noted hotel owner Shashi Patel, who owns the Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Inn in Harriman, as well as other hotels in the region.

“He’s a smart businessman … He’d tell you if it was feasible, we’d have it,” Evans said.

The issue was tabled recently, while city attorney Greg Leffew looked into whether the study needed to be bid out.