Monday, June 19, 2017

Tenn. town known for 1925 'Monkey Trial' finds economic boost in bass fishing tournaments

Fishing on Chickamauga Lake (CBS News image)
A small town whose tourism for nearly the past century has focused around being the site of the John Scopes "Monkey Trial" over evolution in 1925 has turned to bass fishing tournaments for a recent boost in tourism dollars. And it may have helped land a factory.

When anglers compete for the biggest bass in the Tennessee Valley Authority's Chickamauga Lake, Dayton, Tenn., is cashing in, Dennis Tumlin, head of the Rhea County Economic & Tourism Council, told CBS News' Dana Jacobson. "Our statistics show us that about $14 million came into town last year," Tumlin said. That's a big deal for the southeastern Tennessee town of 7,200.

The boost comes at a crucial time for Dayton, which CBS calls one of the more economically depressed areas of Tennessee, based on statistics that include poverty rate, household income and unemployment. "When Mayor [Gary] Louallen was elected four years ago, he had a plan to turn around Dayton's economy," Jacobson reports. Louallen said went to the council and said, "Guys, if you'll just trust me and run with me on this, fishing could really make it good for us."

Dayton, Tennessee (Yahoo map)
Louallen's idea paid off. Dayton sits on an arm of Chickamauga Lake, a Tennessee River impoundment that offers some of the best bass fishing in the South, Jacobson says: "According to Tumlin, the average angler spends $1,100 in a week. One recent tournament brought in 400 anglers, and "We've been averaging 30 events per year for the last three years." That means "the local service industry has been booming," Jacobson reports.

Mary Helen Sprecher, managing editor of Sports Destination Management, a sports-tourism magazine, says you don't need to host the Olympics to become a sports-tourism destination. "She points to events like the Fat Tire Bike Race in Cable, Wisconsin; the American Birkebeiner Ski Race in nearby Hayward, Wis.; and especially the Pickleball Tournament in Naples, Florida, as success stories," Jacobson writes. "One event could have a $1.5-million economic impact, Sprecher said."

But Tumlin says the fishing tournaments are just one step toward a larger goal. "We're chasing industry as hard as we're chasing tourism," he said. "If you're an industry CEO, you're looking for quality of life. So, when you come here, we want you to feel energy, and feel a great community. And we believe it will yield great results." Days after Jacobson visited, "Tumlin announced Dayton had reeled in a really big fish: A Finnish company, Nokia Tyres, announced a $360 million investment in a new plant in the town, along with the promise of 400 new jobs," Jaconson reports."For a small town, that is a great catch."

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