EBCI Plans ‘Experiential Destination’ for Visitors to Great Smoky Mountains

An estimated 11 million tourists travel through Sevier to the Great Smoky Mountains region each year.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) plan to turn the Tribe’s prime real estate in Sevier County, Tennessee, into an “experiential destination” for the estimated 11 million tourists that travel through the Great Smoky Mountains each year. 

Development of the Band’s tracts of land off the busy 407 exit of Interstate 40 will be handled by Kituwah LLC, the EBCI arm created to acquire businesses to diversify revenue beyond reservation-based gaming. To date, Kituwah, LLC has focused on developing revenue streams for the Tribe through property development, entertainment and hospitality, and professional services. 

READ MORE: Kituwah, LLC Focuses on 4 Key Priorities for Growth & Sustainability 

The Economic Driver: Mark Hubble, CEO of Kituwah, LLC 

In alignment with its purpose, Kituwah, LLC is not expected to create a casino on the Sevier property; gaming also happens to be illegal in Tennessee. 

“This will be a major investment by the EBCI into our local community,” said Knoxville-based OE Experiences CEO Matthew Cross. Kituwah has partnered with OE to bring its vision for an experiential destination to life. 

“It is a unique opportunity for the Tribe to form strategic partnerships in one of the best tourism markets in the country. Millions of tourists drive by this location every year on their way to the national park, and they will stop here first,” Cross added. 

Exit 407 is the primary route to reach Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Great Smoky Mountains National park.

In January 2020, the Band purchased a 198-acre lot for $13.5 million, and in 2019, the Tribe bought 122 acres on the north side of the interstate near the Tennessee Smokies baseball stadium for $7.6 million — the latter likely for housing: workforce housing, tax credit housing, or a retirement community.  

READ MORE: Eastern Band of Cherokee Purchase Land in Tennessee for $7.6M 

Meanwhile the vision for the 198-acre property remains flexible, though it will entail dining, shopping and entertainment attractions that fit an overarching theme. 

Cross forecasts the economic impact on Sevier County alone to tally $1 billion over the first decade of operation.

While the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on travel, Cross notes that people are leaning toward car travel versus plane. Knoxville, Tennessee, residents are also anticipated to frequent the area, just a 20-minute drive away, or visit for a weekend getaway. 

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