What Does UT Football Cost Our Community?

Busking at the Market Square Farmers' Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Busking at the Market Square Farmers’ Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Let’s start by trying to stop some of the hate mail before I get it: I love college football. I’m not a UT football fan, but this identical article could likely be written about any number of southern cities of similar size with a successful football program. Some of the details would probably be different for larger or smaller cities, but the theme would probably be similar. Also, I’m not talking about the University of Tennessee and its impact. In many respects, particularly culturally, the university is critical to Knoxville. No, this is about football, which, while it generates massive amounts of money, has some hidden costs to the community.

A couple of things made me start thinking in this direction. First, the Urban Land Institute made reference to the roads surrounding downtown as having been built “for six Saturdays a year (ed: they meant seven).” I’d never considered that the highways and glut of concrete downtown had any possible direct relationship to UT football, but the point is a good one: We really only need the number of massive roads we’ve built on football days.

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Then last weekend I ran around from one event to another, all in the downtown area, of course. While I’m delighted so much is going on, I also realized how much I’m missing. Of course, it’s concentrated that way because it’s all planned on away dates or open dates for the football team. And we all have weddings, parties and other private events that are planned for the same weekends, for the same reason. Which all means I – and you – could attend more of these events if they were spread out a bit.

My calendar indicated thirty-seven choices for what to do from Friday through Sunday and I inadvertently left off at least five others that I know about. Fifteen of the events or shows fell on Saturday – and remember, that’s just in the little area I pay attention to. I’ve already written about the Zombie Walk and the Amendment One rally from Saturday, as well as the Metro Pulse rally from Sunday. I didn’t make it to perhaps the largest of them all: the Brewer’s Jam.

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

Artober Fest, Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, Knoxville, October 2014

The photographs accompanying this article are from some of the other events. The Race for the Cure, which is one of the largest crowds for a race each year, happened on Saturday morning. Thousands lined up in their pink and their tutus to support finding a cure for the disease. It’s always an uplifting event with many people running who have survived cancer, had a loved one survive cancer or people who have lost family members to cancer and, so, they run in their honor.

I also shopped a little at the Market Square Farmers’ Market that morning, which is where I encountered the buskers pictured. The guy playing the saw is very good and the group was good, but their spontaneous dance partner stole the show. Late in the day I stopped into Fourth and Gill’s Artoberfest and saw friends and families having a good time.

Busking at the Market Square Farmers' Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Busking at the Market Square Farmers’ Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Sunday afternoon after the Metro Pulse rally I stopped by the Digital Bookmobile event at the Lawson McGhee Library. The idea was to help those of us who tend to fall behind a bit on our technology understand how to access and enjoy digital books from the public library. The Lonetones added a musical touch to the event.

So, events are crammed together because people are trying to avoid home games. It had never occurred to me until I was talking to a friend that availability of police support for events is extremely limited when they are all working the game. It makes me wonder how well covered various parts of the city are during the games. But what other impacts do games have?

Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

First of all, since this blog is centered on daily life in downtown, let’s start with them impact on downtown residents. It’s important to know that if you decide to move into the city, your life and daily routine will be impacted seriously by game day. Everyone downtown, no matter their personal feelings about UT football, has to know the schedule to plan around the home games. What difference does it make?

For starters, it isn’t wise to move your car because it might be difficult to find a space if you come back after the UT football influx. Traffic also promises to be much worse than usual coming and going and many of the drivers aren’t used to driving in the city and sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists. It can get hairy to drive about.

Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

Lonetones at the Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

Lonetones at the Digital Book Mobile Event, Lawson McGhee Public Library, Knoxville, October 2014

There are also the “fan” stories. The fans who get drunk and throw up on the sidewalk by your house. The fans who get into fights after drinking too much at the game. The fans who celebrate just a bit too loudly a bit too far into the night as they try to remember where they parked the car.

I’m not so sure it helps retail very much as people aren’t inclined to buy things on their way to, or even from, a game. The Market Square Farmer’s Market is typically packed with people on game days, but they aren’t generally buying much – you don’t buy a bag of corn to take to the stadium – and some of the farmers don’t come downtown on game days because of the hassle of getting in and out.

Race for the Cure, World's Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Race for the Cure, World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Race for the Cure, World's Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Race for the Cure, World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Race for the Cure, World's Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Race for the Cure, World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Which is not to say that the football games don’t have some positive impact on downtown. It certainly helps the restaurants, depending on the timing of the game. I also really enjoy the influx of visitors from the various places, especially when the visiting team is from a far-off place like Oregon and we have large numbers of people being introduced to the city at once. I enjoy the conversations that ensure and appreciate them wearing their colors so I can pick them out. And, of course, like any where else in town, a person can seriously have the place to themselves starting at kickoff.

Race for the Cure, World's Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Race for the Cure, World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Race for the Cure, World's Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

Race for the Cure, World’s Fair Park, Knoxville, October 2014

So, there is some cost added in to the excitement and economic benefit and there is a significant impact on downtown, some of it fun, some not so fun. It is part of the package of living downtown. As for the impact on events and event planning, I do hate that it forces so many of them to compete against each other on the same weekends that they all suffer lower attendance and participation than otherwise might have been the case.

Curious Dog Opens at the Jackson Avenue Market

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

This is one of those situations where some of you are saying, “Well, of course they did.” That’s because this is one of those little changes that slipped past me for a while. A friend mentioned it, then I noticed the (relatively) new sign outside. It still said, “Jackson Avenue Market” on the outside, so I wondered exactly what was happening here and stepped inside.

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Angela Szabo who has been with the Market from the beginning explained that they are still the Jackson Avenue Market (200 W. Jackson Avenue), but they’ve changed things up pretty dramatically and added the Curious Dog part of the business as a focal point. The little L-shaped space still looks mostly the same. The mural I pictured in the article I wrote when they first opened in 2011 still graces the wall befuddling at least this passerby.

Seating has been expanded and the cooler, which used to have a more mundane selection of beer, now has large numbers of craft beers my beer-drinking friends have told me about and a bunch that I don’t recognize at all. They do the usual mix and match option. There are still a few beers on tap; a couple of Blackhorse beers, PBR. Vintage games (read, “the ones I played when I was young”) line two back walls. The games are on loan from a friend who collects them. The guitars hanging on the back wall belong (this is from memory from three years ago, so I’m pretty sure) to Matt.

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Brothers Todd and Matt Weidenhamer have owned and operated the business since its inception and a few months ago decided it needed a shakeup and that marked the inception of the hot dog angle. The creativity began to flow with that and the sandwiches and the list of possibilities grew too long for the chalk boards.

Sandwich Menu at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Sandwich Menu at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Hot Dog Menu at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Hot Dog Menu at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Nacho Menu at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Nacho Menu at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

The hot dogs are all-beef on Italian bread and the sandwiches are made of Amish meats and cheese sliced while you watch just for your sandwich. The hot dogs are named after places (except for the Curious Dog) from Thailand to Jersey and the sandwiches are named (mostly) after people from Tony Soprano to Rachel Ray. I’m told a Danny Devito is in development. You’ll have to figure out the connections in either case, but you’ll find some unusual ingredients and unusual combinations of tastes.

Todd Weidenhamer and Angela Szabo at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Todd Weidenhamer and Angela Szabo at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

The Curious and Hawaiian Dogs at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

The Curious and Hawaiian Dogs at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Urban Woman and I got the Curious Dog and the Hawaiian Dog. I ate the Curious Dog with bbq, potato salad and (a generous amount) of bacon. Very tasty and it all worked together, somehow. I didn’t need any sides. Urban Woman liked her Hawaiian with ham, pineapple, bbq, slaw, honey and topped with sesame seeds. I’m not a slaw kind of guy, but she said it was good. Both were very filling. I was pleased to find Mexican coke in the cooler, so that topped it off for me.

Todd and Matt Weidenhamer at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Todd and Matt Weidenhamer at Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

They also sell cupcakes which are tricked out in various ways. They recently made one that looked like a cheese burger, for example and had to explain to one customer that, no, it would not taste like a cheese burger, it was, in fact a cupcake. The cupcakes are actually called Maddie Cakes after Maddie (Matt’s daughter) who joined us after she got out of school. The cupcakes are made by Todd, but Maddie gives the occasional hand and remains the inspiration.

Todd and Matt Weidenhamer, Angela Szabo and Maddie posing with the Maddie Cakes, Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Todd and Matt Weidenhamer, Angela Szabo and Maddie posing with the Maddie Cakes, Curious Dog at the Jackson Ave. Market, Knoxville, October 2014

Much of what you’ll find is made in-house, from the cupcakes to the nachos. They make their own kimchi and the mayonnaise, as well. The Maddie Cakes are vegan-friendly and they use the brothers’ grandmother’s recipe and make them fresh daily.

It’s also a late-night place to pick up something to eat, with hours running from 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM Monday through Thursday and 11:00 AM – 1:00 AM Friday and Saturday.

Mango’s Decor and Co. Opens in the Old City

Entrance to 111 N. Central Street, Knoxville, October 2014

A new store opened last week in the Old City at 111 N. Central Street inside the same building as the Melting Pot. Featuring "upscale home decor at a competitive price," the store sits on the northern edge of the Old City, just across the tracks from … [Continue reading]

Zombies in the City, 2014

Zombie Walk, Knoxville, October 2014

It's that time of year, again. This past Saturday the Zombie Apocalypse descended on Krutch Park for the 2014 Knoxville Zombie Walk. If you like the macabre or if you just enjoy amazing make-up jobs, or if you suspect zombies might just be real, this … [Continue reading]

What Does It Take to Get Knoxville Riled? Metro Pulse?

Protest on Market Square Last Spring, Knoxville, 2014

This weekend marked the rally to support Metro Pulse and/or protest the actions of Scripps to cease its publication and layoff all its employees. Since the announcement last Wednesday passions have run high across the city and on Thursday Chris Irwin … [Continue reading]