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Trapping Tourists

Knoxville's destination attraction destiny

by Scott McNutt

After much serious deliberation, PBA has rejected proposals to turn Market Square into the World's Largest Open-Air Flea Market, the Sunsphere into the World's Largest Goldfish Bowl, or the City/County Building into the World's Largest Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not. (This last because they discovered it already was, and people still won't come.) Instead, PBA says Knoxville's much-anticipated "destination attraction" must wait. This is a mistake. To compete for tourists with the likes of London, Paris, and Chattanooga, we need a destination attraction. Now. Because the only thing that can possibly save Knoxville is a huge influx of capital from tourists. Especially those aquarium-bottom-feeding Chattanooga tourists. Besides, I've already devised attractions that'll draw tourists like flies to a big pile of...honey. So, here are my ideas:

5. Move Knoxville to Key West, Florida. As they knowingly say in the restaurant biz, "Would you like fries with that?" More meaningfully, they also say, "Location, location, location." Maybe Knoxville doesn't attract enough visitors because the hills downtown daunt your average potbellied, taco-munching vacationers. If the tourists won't come to us, let's go to the tourists! Yes, moving the city would present enormous logistical difficulties. (Imagine trying to strap the Sunsphere onto your pickup truck!) But it's exactly the sort of challenge a forward-thinking, progressive administration (such as some city somewhere must have) should welcome, especially after counting all the Parrotheads who visit Key West annually.

4. Turn UT into a historical theme park. In addition to paying exorbitant tuition, parking, and activities fees, students can be humiliated too! Coerce them to act as famous Knoxvillians, such as the legendary "white mule" of Gay Street (to which Jack Neely and other initiates of the secretive White Mule Preservation Society pay homage, in their downtown "prayer meetings"), John Knox, Fort Knox, and Phil Keith. Then stage local "Celebrity Death Matches"! Who wouldn't pay ten bucks to see if "Phil" would shoot the "white mule," then claim he thought it was a drug mule?

3. Start a "Destroy Your History" festival. Make it a spectacle the whole family can enjoy! Publicize it with slogans like "Knoxville, Where Your Past Doesn't Matter" and "Knoxville, Where Greed Beats the Snot Out of Historic Preservation." (Another slogan, "Knoxville: Shortsighted, Dimwitted, and Proud of It," might be considered too negative, so I won't mention it.) Hold bonfires and invite spectators to rip pieces off Fort Sanders' few remaining houses to fuel the flames. We could even hold downtown-historic-block demolitions during "Boomsday." Want a real crowd-pleaser? Use eminent domain to seize historic downtown buildings. Then force the former owners to draw lots, and let the crowd stone the loser to death with rubble taken, fittingly, from the loser's own building.

2. Convince George Lucas to film the next Star Wars installment here, using local talent. The very essence of Yoda-ness can be supplied by Mayor Ashe, who continues to grow into the part with each passing year. Smokey, the Vol mascot, and JoJo, the Metro Pulse Prize Monkey, could vie for the next Wookie role. That versatile thespian David Keith could bring his good-ole'-boy charm to an older, disillusioned, beer-bellied Obi-Wan Kenobi. The young Darth Vader needs a real snarly, felonious attitude. And Brad Renfro has it! Our government bureaucrats can fill any available drone—I mean, droid—roles. Finally, the obligatory cantina scene could be filmed at the Longbranch during an Evil Twin concert, which offers the advantage of not needing alien costumes for the extras.

1. Decide what Knoxville's slogan currently is. Then replace it. I've seen two slogans on "official" Knoxville web sites. One is "Knoxville Naturally," which might as well be "Knoxville Nonsensically" for all the meaning it conveys. The other slogan is "Where Nature and Technology Meet." Yeah, right. Are they introduced at a party? Do they have trysts here that their spouses don't know about? Junk these silly slogans for something that reflects the unique attributes for which Knoxville is so well known: big round buildings. With our penchant for spheroid structures, our new slogan should be "Knoxville: Have a Ball with Our Balls!" We'd blow Chattanooga away.

March 15, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 11
© 2001 Metro Pulse