With it’s scheduled completion date approximately a year from now, the new $45 million LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge is not waiting for its doors to open to begin making its mark in Pigeon Forge. So far, the yet-to-be-completed structure has booked four large events that are sure bring the tourism dollars Pigeon Forge and other Smoky Mountain area towns thrive on.
Its fourth major booking – The National Quartet Convention, has already brought numerous event-goers to other major markets in the United States and looks to do the same for Pigeon Forge. In all, the National Quartet Convention has committed the dates of September 21-28, 2014, and September 27-October 4, 2015.
As far as southern gospel music goes, the National Quartet Convention is a major event. An estimated 40,000 people from 40 states and several countries attended their event in Louisville, KY in 2012.
“This is great for Pigeon Forge. The National Quartet Convention represents a huge volume of room nights and restaurant business,” said Phil Campbell, president of the Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association.
“The NQC is another great example of what the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge means to the local economy,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “One thing that really impressed the NQC staff was how quickly and effectively the Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association reacted to the prospect of the convention’s coming to Pigeon Forge. That interest really helped NQC decide on Pigeon Forge.”
In addition to all of the above, Pigeon Forge’s numerous lodging opportunities, a family atmosphere and the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park all contributed to the selection of Pigeon Forge, according to Clarke Beasley, executive vice president of the National Quartet Convention.
With a September 2013 opening date, construction at the LeConte Center site has been moving at a rapid pace. Groundbreaking commenced in October 2011.
The center’s eye-catcher is a 100,000-square-foot, clear-span hall. The design and the hall’s amenities were exactly what Pigeon Forge was looking for in a building needed to bring in trade shows, sporting events, festivals and large assemblies like the National Quartet Convention.
Things will get started rather quickly upon completion of the structure with the International Gift Exposition in the Smokies/Souvenir Super Show in November 2013 – the center’s first booking. The Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association secured the center’s second and third bookings. They are expected to bring large conferences in December of 2013 and January 2014.
The National Quartet Convention was founded in 1957 by JD Sumner, a legend in the gospel world and former backup singer for Elvis Presley, and co-produced with James Blackwood.
Among their 2012 National Quartet Convention event performers are the Gaither Vocal Band, the Hoppers, the Kingdom Heirs, Gold City, Greater Vision, the Booth Brothers, Legacy Five, Triumphant Quartet and the Isaacs.