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Hotel coming to Morgan County?

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By Goose Lindsay

Could a new hotel be coming to Wartburg?

Morgan County Economic Development Board (MCEDB) Executive Director Lisa Collett hopes so and last week MCEDB purchased 7.36 acres of land off Highways 27 and 62 between Save-A-Lot and the Morgan County Visitors Center with the hopes of luring a hotel into the area.

“A lot of people think we are building a hotel, but the Economic Development Board is not going into the hotel business,” Collett said. “We will sell the land to someone who is.  We’ve already been contacted by a couple of different companies that are interested in building a hotel and we have already done a feasibility study.”

As tourism continues to grow in Morgan County, especially since the opening of Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary as a tourist attraction in 2018, a hotel should help generate revenue for Morgan County. Now many people who look for lodging stay in places such as Harriman, Oak Ridge and Crossville.

“I think it’s been needed for a while,” Collett said. “There have been talks about it for so long. Any meetings I go to within the city or county meetings with someone like the tourism alliance, a hotel is the first thing to come up. Our goal is to try to get one.

“We have a lot of folks come here. In September there will be 400 runners coming here for the Barkley Marathon and there is nowhere for them to stay. If they bring a person with them or their family there could be 1,000 people walking around here.”

Collett believes a hotel would have a ripple effect on other area businesses and the county government as well with more people purchasing food at area grocery stores, meals at area restaurants, gas at convenience stores while shopping with local retailers.

“If we get a hotel, we already have a couple of people interested in putting a restaurant beside it and that would be good,” she said. “It would increase our sales tax revenue and most counties also have a hotel/motel tax and we should have it here. That tax will be brought in and that includes camping and bed and breakfasts.”

Collett says there is no timetable as to when a new hotel could open in Wartburg, but she is hoping for the best.

“I really don’t know but I would hope maybe a year,” she said. “I really don’t know what it takes to build a hotel.”