TN: 773-Acre Entertainment, Leisure Destination Coming to Cumberland Co.
21 Jul, 2021
Rusty Bittle, developer and founding partner of Flatrock USA, announced Cumberland County, Tennessee as the location for a sprawling entertainment and leisure destination featuring a motorsports park designed by world renowned Tilke Engineers & Architects. The 773 acre tract is located off of I-40 at the Westel exit and was owned by the Plateau Park Partnership. The property has sat dormant for years after Roane, Morgan and Cumberland counties entered into a partnership to purchase and market the site for development.
“A Tennessee motorsports park is a legacy project for me,” said Bittle. “The State of Tennessee has a reputation for automotive excellence, we are leading the way on advanced transportation technologies like electric vehicles, lightweight composites and artificial intelligence. A motorsports park will help the state and Plateau build an international reputation for next generation transportation technologies and become a tourism destination for automotive enthusiasts.”
East Tennessee business leaders Kevin Clayton and William T. “Teddy” Phillips, Jr. join Bittle as lead investors in the project. Clayton is the CEO of Clayton Homes headquartered in Maryville, Tennessee, one of the largest home builders and manufacturers of manufactured homes in the United States. He is a long-time auto enthusiast and competitor in Ferrari Challenge and Skip Barber Race Series, as well as a Music City Grand Prix founding investor. Phillips is the CEO of Phillips & Jordan, a heavy/civil infrastructure contractor headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee. Additionally, he is a Music City Grand Prix founding investor and lifelong car enthusiast.
“The Plateau Park Partnership was thrilled at the prospect of Flatrock locating to our site,” said John Davis, chair of the Plateau Park Partnership. “This property sat vacant since well before 2007, we had multiple prospects but the hilly terrain and lack of utilities to support a large manufacturing facility ultimately caused those prospects to walk away. The terrain is actually an asset for Flatrock and a leisure and tourism destination that leverages our state’s strong automotive industry will provide high quality economic development for the entire region.”
With the Plateau Park Partnership offering more than double the amount of land than the previous location option, Bittle was able to expand his concept from a motorsports park to a sprawling entertainment and leisure destination that combines world class amenities with a motorsports park. The destination will feature a six-mile track, designed by Tilke Engineers & Architects, that incorporates the rolling terrain of the site while retaining and displaying the natural beauty of the surrounding area. In addition, the track will feature a state-of-the-art paddock area to include race control, hospitality suites, meeting space for training and orientation, rooftop viewing, private garages, and a FIA Certified Kart Track for public use and corporate team building events.
Additional amenities will showcase the Cumberland Plateau as the ideal destination for a leisure traveler or homeowner. Those include an amphitheater, winery, landmark hotel and conference center, a destination restaurant with a brewery, Innovation Center and museum, retail center, clubhouse with amenities, campground, adventure activities, multiple types of residential properties, farming to provide many of the needed meats and produce for on-site restaurants, helipad and an observatory on the highest point of the property.
The latest announcement comes after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) informed Bittle he would need to pay for a costly Environmental Impact Statement due to land use restrictions put in place when DOE transferred the property to the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board. Bittle originally selected several parcels at The Horizon Center in Oak Ridge for the project. The directive came 18 months after initiating the project and with no guarantees that final approval would be received. This led Bittle to identify new locations that were “shovel ready,” meaning zoning was in place to accommodate Bittle’s motorsports park concept, and 300+ acre parcels of contiguous property unencumbered by governmental bureaucracy.
“Multiple counties from across the state and some out of state parties were contacting me, enthusiastically advocating for their site as the best location for Flatrock,” added Bittle. “The best location for Flatrock is in Cumberland County, Tennessee and I look forward to being part of the Plateau community and contributing to the economic development of the region.”
A previous market study and analysis based solely on the track and paddock concluded the project would generate $93 million in its first five years and up to $110 million under a best-case scenario. The analysis was conducted by an independent consulting firm retained by Tilke Engineers & Architects, recognized as one of the most experienced companies when it comes to design, engineering, and construction oversight in the motorsports world. Bittle has retained Tilke to draft the concept for the park and design and manage construction of the park as the project progresses.
Similar concepts in the Southeast have resulted in a positive economic impact for their host communities. The Greater Birmingham Visitors and Convention Bureau calculated the Barber Motorsports Park had an economic impact of $1.17 billion, including some $122 million dollars of tax revenue generated in state and local taxes during a ten year period from 2003-2012. Additionally, the Atlanta Motorsports Park in Dawsonville managed to sell $8 million in condos in a two month period during the global pandemic of 2020.
Flatrock will break ground this year with the motorsports park projected to be completed in phases, the first as early as next summer.
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