Sports tourism leaders in Franklin, Tennessee, want to make sure event organizers, parents, coaches and athletes understand what makes their city a prime destination for youth and amateur competitions.
Matt Maxey, who has worked as the public relations manager for Visit Franklin for the past three years, believes that the city has several distinct advantages that will help draw an even greater breadth of sporting events in upcoming years. Here are some of the reasons Franklin is ready to step up its game:
Adjacent to Nashville’s Charms, With Its Own Distinct Personality
Nashville’s desirability as a destination is well known (it will host the NFL Draft in 2019), and Visit Franklin believe it can advantage of that. Franklin boasts a charming downtown, a wide range of shopping, dining and lodging options without the traffic and crowds associated with the larger city.
When athletes and their families come for a tournament, they can stay in quaint, tranquil Franklin while still taking advantage of any Nashville attraction they might wish to see. In selling Franklin, officials even distinguish between the types of sporting events each city specializes in, Maxey says.
“Anything that’s youth and amateur we will go after,” he says. “We jokingly say, ‘We leave the pro stuff for Nashville, with the Titans and the NHL and all that stuff. But we are in a great place to be the southeastern hub for youth and amateur sports. There’s a big focus on it, we go after it heavily, and we treat them well when they get here.”
Quick Proximity to Amenities
With the largest mall in middle Tennessee in Franklin, nearness to several major interstates and a full range of restaurants, hotels and other services, sports tourism visitors to Franklin don’t have to venture to Nashville—or anywhere else—to stay full, rested and occupied, Maxey notes. Typically the drive from field to hotel or restaurant is five or 10 minutes, even if there’s traffic.
The convenience and range of amenities in Franklin is consistently one of the advantages visitors mention the most when they evaluate sporting events held there. “You’re not going to be bored here,” Maxey says. “What you do on the field might only take two or three hours out of the day, but the rest of the time of the day can be filled for the kids or the parents, whatever they’re looking for.”
Quality of Facilities
The heart of Franklin’s sports calendar centers around indoor sports like basketball and volleyball, with heavy emphasis on soccer as well. The facilities
in the area create excellent settings for those pursuits. The largest indoor arena in Williamson County is the Ag EXPO Park in Franklin, which has 4,180 permanent seats and 175,000 square feet of climate-controlled space.
The arena is ideal for setting up multiple basketball or volleyball courts or wrestling rings, and events hosted there in 2018 included Tennessee’s AAU State Wrestling Championships and the K9Sports of Tennessee’s Agility Trials.
One of Franklin’s more unusual sports settings is The Park at Harlinsdale Farm, a 200-acre historic farm that is the competitive home of the Franklin Polo Academy. For outdoor activities, Jim Warren Park offers not only courts and fields for baseball, football, basketball and tennis, but also a fishing pond. One of the CVB’s goals in 2019 and beyond is to make optimal use of each event venue, so that soccer fields, for example, can be converted for other sports like lacrosse and rugby.
Williamson County officials are in the early approval stages of planning a massive new sports complex, because the community recognizes the potential of Franklin to attract even more sports and recreation events if more space is available. “We’re kind of at the peak of what we have and what we can do, and the general public as a whole is kind of seeing that,” Maxey says. “There’s a little momentum building for people to want to expand the offerings here.”