Two events on the weekend of Sept. 11-12 highlight the roll Floyd County has been on this year, as sports tourism continues to thrive — even during a pandemic.

Georgia Cycling’s first race of the season at Kingston Downs and the Southern Ozaki Junior Cup at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College are the most recent examples of that success.

The mountain bike race featured middle and high school riders from all over the state and brought in just under 864 participants over two days and over 3,000 event attendees, according to organizer Kenny Griffin. The tennis tournament, which was formerly the Junior Davis/Fed Cup, drew over 200 of the top tennis teens from across nine southeastern states.

That’s an estimated economic impact of more than $300,000 for Rome and Floyd County this past weekend; just a drop in the bucket for 2021.

Year to date, sports tourism has brought in $5,831,403 for this area, according to figures compiled by Rome Sports Commission Director Ann Hortman.

Georgia’s Rome Office of Tourism Director Lisa Smith and Hortman have been optimistic this year, and it’s paid off.

“Sports tourism is 91% of our business,” Hortman said.

Tennis has been a sports tourism driver for several years. The economic impact of tennis alone in Floyd County had been in the range of $4.8 million to $4.9 million in each of the three years prior to 2020.

That dropped off in 2020 to $1.7 million as 36 tournaments were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But so far this year, we’re back.

Another tennis-specific note is the likelihood that the management of the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College will be changing.

While the tourism office took over operation of the tennis center in June of last year, this past week Rome city commissioners approved a measure to allow a contract with Cliff Drysdale Tennis.

CDT is under the same umbrella company that manages Stonebridge Golf Course, a relationship that City Manager Sammy Rich described as successful.

The proposal, which is not finalized, would be a $10,000-a-month fee alongside a 3% bonus based on profits.

Saying the center would be the flagship of the management company’s portfolio, Rich said they’ll be aggressive in recruiting tournaments and events. On top of that, he said, they specialize in creating tennis programming for locals.

“There will be something for everyone,” Rich said.

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