Keeping a premier youth and amateur sports facility at the forefront of a booming industry is a never-ending endeavor of facility maintenance, technology improvements, planning and hard work. As if the ravages of time, weather, leaks and spills aren’t enough, add in chewing gum, cleats, crumb rubber, bouncing balls and mountains of trash. Maintaining a world-class facility and keeping it looking brand new is truly a nonstop job.
There are four keys to staying ahead of the game:
- Preventative Maintenance
- Policy Review
- Team Training
Prioritizing preventative maintenance and computerized facility management systems are just two examples of how Rocky Top Sports World (RTSW) stays ahead of the game. Heating and air regulation systems, lighting control and thorough food and beverage inspections all result in cost savings that are vital in helping our team prepare the facility to withstand high-demand event weekends. RTSW recently underwent a comprehensive energy services audit by the Tennessee Valley Authority that provided assessment, findings and recommendations for improvements. Utilizing a local utility company to provide this free service could prove invaluable for both new and mature venues. In turn, adjustments to these systems will reduce capital repairs, extend equipment life, and reduce unscheduled shutdowns.
Being prepared for the unexpected is always a rule in event planning, but an extraordinary natural disaster and its impact on operations was a uniquely difficult challenge for RTSW. In November of 2016, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, experienced a wildfire tragedy that claimed 14 lives and destroyed over 2,400 structures. Extreme drought and record winds fueled fires that approached, but did not reach, the facility. Although the complex was spared the impact of the fires, there was wind damage to our building, fields, fences and bleachers. The night the fires swept through the community and for two weeks afterward, RTSW indoor facility served as a shelter for hundreds of residents and their pets, a food and clothing distribution center, a dispatch for teams of firefighters, a medical triage center, and a temporary commissary that prepared and delivered more than 80,000 meals.
The facility team focused on round-the-clock cleaning during the days of heavy use and again after the disaster to minimize the overall wear and tear on the building and grounds. Their efforts resulted in a quick turnaround as RTSW transitioned the building from disaster relief services back to hosting sporting events in less than a week. Insurance coverages for both facility damage and business interruption were vital in enabling the facility to resume operations quickly. Reviewing insurance coverages and limits to provide adequate funds to replace damaged property and provide cash flow to cover lost revenue from canceled events is essential to quickly resuming normal business activities and the long-term ability to maintain a top-notch facility.
Rocky Top Sports World is fortunate to be surrounded by rolling hills and peaks of majestic mountains. With this comes the responsibility of maintaining a facility worthy of bordering the most visited National Park in the country. Landscaping and grounds is often overlooked and considered an extra expense at other facilities, but RTSW places a high priority on blending in with the extraordinary natural beauty around us. Recycling efforts throughout the complex have been highly successful since partnering with a local beautification group.
Regular building maintenance and upkeep is simply another component of event preparation and the constant attention to it is key to keeping that “new facility” look. A fresh coat of paint or a deep clean can go a long way towards this goal. This standard has proven to be an expectation of our guests, contributes to the overall cleanliness of the facility, and ensures RTSW maintain its picture-perfect aesthetic.
From a facility perspective, ongoing knowledge and maintenance history of systems throughout the building are vital for everything from warranties to working knowledge of equipment. By creating a purposeful onboarding plan and training materials, each new employee can be brought up to speed quickly and proper processes followed.
Ongoing training and procedure creation is key to continually improving facility performance. The key to operating efficiently is communication and this has been the catalyst for our operational improvements. Training our staff accordingly and welcoming input at all levels (especially front-line employees), helps develop realistic processes and procedures.
Preventative care and updates will keep a venue performing as it was designed to sustain intense day-to-day activities. This, along with adequate planning and constant hard work, is critical to keeping a state-of-the-art sports facility operating at peak efficiency so that it will be ready when needed in any situation – a community event, a tournament, or league play.
SFM General Manager
Rocky Top Sports World, Gatlinburg TN
An employee of the Sports Facilities Management, Lori McMahan Moore currently serves as the General Manager for Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. With over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Lori has spent her career focused on promoting world class tourism destinations and facilities. Most recently, Lori was awarded the “Most Outstanding Leader” by The Sports Facilities Management and in 2015 was designated as a “Top 9 Women in Sports Tourism.”