Grand Resort sold at auction

Several Seaton properties snatched up in foreclosure sale
Nov. 17, 2012 @ 05:41 PM

One of the city’s largest and most notorious hotels is now in new hands after a foreclosure sale, and it isn’t yet clear what it means for its future.

The Grand Resort and Hotel was sold on the steps of the Sevier County Courthouse in a foreclosure auction this week, along with several other properties formerly owned by hotel magnate Ken Seaton. Franklin LLC purchased The Grand, along with some additional hotels owned by Seaton in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, for about $9.3 million, said Lynn Tarpy, who acted as trustee for the property in the sale. A representative of Franklin could not be reached Thursday, and Seaton could not be reached for comment.

A second set of property, which appeared to include the Grand Inns of Pigeon Forge, sold for $1.9 million.

The Grand was one of the first hotels in the area to include its own convention center when it opened ahead of the 1982 World’s Fair, and remains among the largest in Pigeon Forge, said Leon Downey, tourism director for the city. It initially became a popular location for church youth conventions, although many of those organizations have relocated to the Gatlinburg Convention Center and other facilities in the years since then. The hotel had not fared as well in recent years, and in 2011 it was named to the Dirtiest Hotel in America in a survey run on tripadvisor.com, a popular website for tourists looking to get information about hotels and attractions nationwide.

Downey said he hopes the sale means the hotel will continue to play a part in the city’s tourism trade; it is located near the city’s new convention center, the LeConte Cetner.

“We’re hoping something good for tourism will happen there,” he said.

In addition to helping start attract youth conventions to this area, the Grand is home to one of the area’s biggest car shows. The Grand Rod Runs are held in the spring and the fall of each year and bring thousands of classic car enthusiasts to the town. That show, like several classic car shows, outgrew the resort and convention center, and enthusiasts not only fill many other local hotels but also sell and display cars in parking lots along the Parkway.

It isn’t clear what the hotel’s closure might mean for the event, but one of the promoters said it would carry on even if it had to relocate.

Ronnie Cooper said Thursday he has not heard directly from the new owners of the hotel but he’s gotten indications they mean to continue their affiliation with the car show.

“It’s filtered down that ... that’s part of the reason they bought it was the two rod runs,” he said.

Next year’s rod runs are set for April 19-21 and Sept. 12-15. Cooper said they have already started preparing advertising for the rod run, and they still mean to hold the event one way or another. “We’ll do something regardless,” he said.

The Grand Hotel website still allowed visitors Thursday to reserve rooms at the hotel going into next month. However, a person answering their reservation telephone line acknowledged the hotel had been sold and offered to transfer a caller to other lodging because they weren’t sure how the sale might impact bookings.

The hotel became a source of controversy for Seaton in its later years, and in 2011 made the list of the dirtiest hotel in America on the tripadvisor website.

Seaton sued the website for defamation of his business, but a judge dismissed his complaint, saying a reasonable person could understand the ranking was base on a survey of tripadvisor users. Seaton has appealed that ruling.