PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - The new $45 million convention center in Pigeon Forge, which opened in October, began hosting its first major event Tuesday: the eight-day International Gift Exposition in the Smokies.
The event is expected to bring 10,000 people to the area.
City officials say the main reason they built the center was to draw large groups of people to the area.
The center is a 232,000 square foot and can hold more than 12,000 people.
"I think seeing this first show in here basically is a great illustration for why we built this building," said Pigeon Forge tourism executive director Leon Downey. "It's to bring large numbers of people into the community, so they are out in the community spending money."
Workshop Tools is located just down the street. The manager says they are already seeing the effects from the first show at the center.
"We've seen more customers," said manager Brian Wallis. "Our customer counts are slowly increasing."
Many of the people coming to the center are also spending the night in Sevier County.
The manager at the Inn at Christmas Place is happy to see the center packed and says the ripple effects of bringing this number of people to the area is big.
"These folks who are traveling as a group, they'll come back and see us with their families and friends," said guest service manager Dwight McCarter. "The economic impact is huge."
City officials say they will not know the exact economic impact until the November revenue numbers come in, but they are confident having all these people in Pigeon Forge will bring millions into the local economy.
Downey says the business owners do not need to worry about the center not being booked.
"I think we have 16 events booked for the building right now in this first year," he said.
The show at the center this week has more than 600 booths. People from across the country are in town to participate in this event.