Bob Thomas’ thoughts on the future of downtown Knoxville.

On July 11th City Council candidate Bob Thomas presented his thoughts on downtown Knoxville.

“As we quickly move toward Election Day in Knoxville, there are many concerns for citizens to think about. As many of you know I am a fiscally conservative person with strong opinions about city finances, recode, affordable housing, homelessness, the opioid crisis and many more subjects. But today I only want to focus on downtown Knoxville. I believe that being on City Council is more than just reacting. I believe we all want and need leaders with visions and ideas for the future of our city.”

“I have personally been involved with downtown Knoxville most of my life. When I was 21 and working in Knoxville radio I revived the Christmas Parade then became the chairman of the Knoxville Christmas Parade for the next 20 years.”

“In 1988 I believed that hockey could survive in Knoxville and owned the Knoxville Cherokees – one of the five founding teams in the East Coast Hockey League. I did over 300 games in the Knoxville Coliseum bringing in over $25 million to the Knoxville economy.”

“I was encouraged to share a vision I have had for downtown Knoxville for several years.  This is a vision that I have seen from thousands of hours of doing events downtown.”

“One of the great things about downtown is there are five different entertainment areas. One of the most challenging things about downtown Knoxville is it has five different entertainment areas…that are not connected. They are:”

  1. Coliseum and Auditorium
  2. Old City and maybe a future ballpark
  3. Market Square
  4. Convention Center and Word’s Fair Park
  5. Riverfront and Neyland Stadium

“If you drive downtown to visit one of the five locations, you park your car, go to the area and then return to your car and go home. 90% of the time you would never visit two of the five areas in the same night. For years I have thought downtown Knoxville could attain an even greater success if you could easily visit all five in one night. But how? I decided to develop the “ideal” situation and plant that seed in the minds of Knoxville’s leaders.”

“I took my idea to MBI’s President Louis Cortina. He liked it and brought in his firm led by engineer David Matlock.”

“This “ideal” situation would be a single track, automated, electric, elevated tram on a 2 3/4 mile circular track. It would take 15 minutes to make the entire loop from 35 feet in the air.”

The stops:

  1. Coliseum Terminal – 2500 parking spots, concerts and sports. And maybe coffee shops and other shops if it became a 7 day a week main terminal.
  2. Old City/ Smokies Station (Patton/Jackson corner) – Old City restaurants and maybe the home of a new baseball stadium.
  3. Market Square/Crowne Plaza Station – Market Square restaurants and bars and an example of how a hotel could be connected.
  4. World’s Fair Park/Convention Center Station – This would add 2500 parking spots for people to visit the Convention Center, Museum of Art, Sunsphere and World’s Fair Park events.
  5. Riverfront/Neyland Stadium Station – Riverfront restaurants, river cruises and of course, Neyland Stadium on game days.

“This tram being elevated does not require stopping traffic of taking wide areas of land, only cooperation with mostly city land where the tram would be supported. My vision is this being built and operated by a private entity or entertainment company who can foresee the tram itself becoming a tourist attraction. It could also possibly qualify for grants given for public transportation.

A recap…this would:

  1. Create a new tourist attraction that gives visitors a bird’s eye view of our great city.
  2. Ties our five entertainment areas together so everyone can easily visit them all in one night.
  3. Brings 2500 parking spots into use for a new baseball park, the Convention Center and UT football games.
  4. Potentially turns the Coliseum into a mall with coffee shops and other stores every day, not just on event days.


Candidate Bob Thomas’ final thoughts…

“I realize this is not going to happen next year or maybe even in ten years, but I present it as an idea for us all to think about. This is a glimpse into the future that takes Knoxville to an even greater level. All of us are capable of great ideas. We need to encourage those that bring us ideas. And I think we need more of that in government.”

Proposed route