Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, rejoice! The Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) Rally is returning to Maryville in 2018 for the first time since 2013.
The rally, which was the precursor to Maryville’s annual Summer on Broadway event, will be held in either June or July next year, Blount Partnership President/CEO Bryan Daniels told the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority Board of Directors at their quarterly meeting Tuesday.
“Harley-Davidson is the driver of that (timing),” Daniels said. “There may be Harley-Davidson events on the West Coast at the same time (as Summer on Broadway), so we don’t want to take riders away from that.”
Regardless of which month it’s held, the H.O.G. Rally is “shaping up to be not just for Tennessee, but for the whole Southeast,” Daniels noted.
Tourism board members were pleased but asked that organizers try not to schedule the H.O.G. Rally for the same time as the annual Smoky Mountain Classic softball tournament because that event fills up the county’s hotel rooms.
The tourism board also threw its support Tuesday behind an effort to connect Maryville to Townsend via a 14-mile greenway, part of a larger effort to link pedestrians and cyclists from Knoxville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The expansion plan was highlighted in May during Blount County’s annual Tourism Day. The first phase, which would connect Maryville to Heritage High School, is estimated to cost $ 3 million while the second phase, which would connect Heritage High School to Townsend, is estimated to cost $ 21 million.
However, the estimated economic impact of the trail is about $ 65 million over a 10-year period.
“This board is on record that walking trails are important and that we want to support trails and help the greenway grow,” Daniels told the board. “Legacy Parks has approached us as the Blount Partnership to take the lead here on being an advocate for the Greenway completion.”
Daniels said he was presenting the idea to all three Blount Partnership boards: Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development and Tourism.
While tourism board members, including Chairman Tim Seay, voiced that the greenway expansion is a “worthwhile project” with significant economic impact, they hesitated to put their support in form of a formal motion without knowing what kind of dollars would be tied to that commitment.
“I’m not aware of any budget considerations,” Daniels said. “There has been no ask for capital. There would be no budget impact yet.”
Instead, Daniels said the Blount Partnership would be providing staff time, resources and social media to the project, costs already covered in the communications line item of its budget.
“It’s important for us to step out and show leadership for the business community,” Seay said.
“It does send a message of importance if you make a motion on it,” he said.
The board eventually passed a motion agreeing to take lead on advocating for the greenway expansion locally but noting the project must come back to the board before the Blount Partnership makes any capital investment.
Also on Tuesday, board members approved the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, a $ 63,700 increase over Fiscal Year 2017’s adopted budget.
“This current fiscal year is still within budget,” Daniels said. “We are just moving monies around where we spent less than we budgeted.”
The tourism board is looking at $ 1,663,700 in net revenue next year and has budgeted $ 1,312,650 in total expenses, which leaves money for debt service and in reserve.
There are no significant changes in the budget, Daniels said. All of the organizations that asked the board for funding were included in the budget:
• Highland Games, $ 5,000;
• Maryville College Athletics, $ 7,500;
• Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, $ 12,100; and
• Maryville-Alcoa-Blount County Parks and Recreation Commission, $ 7,000.
The only organization that did not receive its full funding request is Maryville College Athletics, which asked for $ 10,000 at the board’s April meeting.
“We usually give them $ 5,000, so we split the difference and gave them $ 7,500 this year,” Daniels said.
The board’s next meeting is at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Blount Partnership, 201 S. Washington St., Maryville.