City of Pigeon Forge


Pigeon Forge, TN


Construction Engineering and Inspection, Experiential Design and Wayfinding, Roadway Design and Engineering

The LeConte Center is a premier multipurpose convention and event space located in the heart of Pigeon Forge. While serving as a catalyst for development and economic vitality in the city, it also enhances the natural beauty of the community. Since opening in October 2013, the LeConte Event Center has surpassed expectations and maintained an almost at-capacity calendar of bookings. This success, paired with the success of The Island, a nearby retail and entertainment center that also depends on the City’s municipal parking lot for its patrons, created an acute need for additional public parking. With one of its biggest events about a year away, the City hired Gresham Smith to design and manage construction engineering and inspection (CEI) of a new 2,000-space parking lot with easily accessible pathways to the existing event center. Overcoming the extreme topography that comes with being at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains prompted a myriad of options to evaluate, including grade-separated pedestrian facilities, escalators, elevators and stairs, and whether to provide access directly into the building or create infrastructure that could serve the community in a more comprehensive manner.

acres of pavers
parking spaces
foot pedestrian bridge
LeConte Center pedestrian bridge

A National Deadline

Gresham Smith was tasked with engineering a plan to deliver a new 2,000-space parking lot by on a quick turn basis head of the Center’s largest event, the National Quartet Convention. Due to this major time constraint, the project solution was broken into three phases for bidding and construction: mass grading of a parking lot, creation of parking area and construction of a pedestrian bridge. This allowed the project team to complete conceptual design and get the mass grading underway while finalizing the parking lot and pedestrian bridge design.

Baseball complex

A+ Grading

Mass grading of the parking lot site began first, and appropriate erosion protection and sediment control measures were set in place. The proposed parking lot was located on a previously graded site for an adjacent 40-acre baseball complex. The grading of that project left approximately 300,000 cubic yards of in-situ rock to be removed from the middle of the parking lot site to achieve the planned grade.

LeConte Center pedestrian bridge

Altering Design & Eliminating Cost

When the first bid exceeded the initial estimate by an amount that Pigeon Forge City Council would not approve, Gresham Smith worked with the City to alter the design and implement cost-saving measures. The focus for the redesign was the replacement of the engineered stormwater quality, detention and conveyance features.

Our team successfully implemented a pervious paver design that met the requirements for water quality and detention by confirming the necessary infiltration for “first flush” requirements and utilizing a system of impervious berms to create storage in the stone base below the pavers. In addition to the elimination of pipes, vaults and water-quality units, a cost savings was recognized by eliminating the asphalt section for 14 acres of the site.

LeConte Center wayfinding rendering

Navigating the Natural Splendor

The wayfinding plan for the project utilized the existing LeConte Center logo to brand the two separate lots as the River Lot, which is next to the Pigeon River, and the Mountain Lot, which was constructed out of pavers. With the use of the paver material, the project team was able to continue the branding into the paver design. The intent was not only to create something unique, but also to help define the lot for the high percentage of out-of-town visitors.

LeConte Center pedestrian bridge
LeConte Center pedestrian bridge

A Seamless Connection

The land purchased by the City for the parking lot is across Teaster Lane and about 50 feet higher than the LeConte Center building elevation. To provide access and a seamless connection, the third and final phase of the project included a pedestrian bridge that crosses the road and delivers guests directly from the parking lot to the LeConte Center. Utility and underground detention impacts, roadway clearance, ADA compliance, building emergency egress, employee parking, and aesthetics all had to be taken into consideration when designing the bridge. This facility had many obstacles to maneuver, including utility and underground detention impacts, roadway clearance, ADA compliance, building emergency egress, employee parking and aesthetics that matched the existing building.

LeConte Center parking lot

Not Your Typical Parking Lot

The permeable paver parking lot is now the second largest paver project in the U.S. and the largest east of the Mississippi River. The new parking lot and pedestrian bridge not only elevated the patron experience for visitors of the LeConte Center but also created a noteworthy landmark for both the Center and the local community.

The end result is a parking facility and pedestrian bridge that complements the aesthetics of the built environment while providing an open bicycle and pedestrian connection from the Riverwalk Greenway across Teaster Lane to the Jake Thomas Road corridor.

The city is already seeing returns on the parking lot investment. Since opening, we have not had to close roads, rent parking or provide transportation. We are saving money not only as a direct expense but also on manpower to organize and staff auxiliary lots and transit. The parking lot is in the center of the most explosive growth in the city. We are proud to be a catalyst for growth in the area. Earlene Teaster City Manager, City of Pigeon Forge