The start of construction of the new indoor tennis courts at the Rome Tennis Center couldn’t come at a better time for Ann Hortman, director of the Rome Sports Commission.

She told members of the Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism Board on Wednesday bidding for the next five years of NCAA regional and national events opens in August, and the indoor courts are necessary to bid for the tennis competitions.

BM&K construction and engineering moved its office trailer onsite Wednesday and has already started the process of taking down shade structures and nets on three of the existing courts that will become part of the new indoor complex.

That facility will be located on the northwest corner of the tennis center, using three existing courts with the addition of three new courts on a site that has already been rough-graded.

“They’re going to work in and around tennis tournaments for the rest of the year, so there may be a lot of hand holding,” said Rome City Manager Sammy Rich. He said the facility is expected to be completed by the end of January, well in advance of the April 2020 Atlantic Coast Conference tennis championships.

Hortman said she expects to begin working with both Shorter University, a Division II member of the NCAA, as well as Berry College, which competes in Division III.

Hortman also said she has had interest from the NAIA for future championship events in Rome.

Golf was also on Hortman’s agenda for the meeting, telling the board that Rome’s Stonebridge Golf Course will be the host for the Georgia Public Links Championships on Sept. 7-8.

She expects well over 100 golfers from all over Georgia to be in Rome for at least two nights during the event, and sponsorships for a variety of activities at the tournament are available to local businesses.

She also said the Ladies Professional Golf Association Symetra Tour, which is the developmental tour stars of the future, has expressed an interest in coming to the Rome area.

Sports-related tourism has contributed $2.37 million to the local economy through the first four months of the year.

That number represents approximately 80% of the total tourism economic impact through the first four months of the year.

The addition of the downtown welcome center on West First Street adjacent to the Town Green, coupled with the addition of the mobile welcome center, has spurred sales for gift merchandise through the tourism office. Sales are up 24 percent as compared to last year.