City leaders discuss future of World's Fair Park

City leaders discuss future of World's Fair Park

World's Fair Park World's Fair Park

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - City of Knoxville and World's Fair Park leaders met Tuesday evening to discuss the future of Knoxville's most iconic park.

The event marked the first meeting of the World's Fair Park Working Group, which was formed to incubate ideas about future cultural amenities and offerings in the downtown Knoxville Park.

"It's really to look at feasibility, geographical limitations, interest, and if it all seems to be there, they can get to a broader level," said Bill Lyons, chief policy officer and deputy to the mayor for the City of Knoxville.

In May, Mayor Madeline Rogero assembled the group, appointing co-chairs Bill Lyons and Jan Simek, a former interim President and current UT professor.  

City officials say the south lawn, or performing lot, is the last remaining plot of the park to develop. The area also is convenient to the UT parking garage at 11th Street. 

Jeff Gaylon told members a portion of the plot can't be developed because of buried sewer lines.  Gaylon estimates one to 1.5 acres of the three-acre lawn is buildable.  

The lawn is currently home to several concerts, including July 4th events and Brewers Jam.    

Lyons says the venue can't be used frequently because of problems caused by excess rain, and because of a lack of seating area.

"There's been a long time interest of outdoor space where there are concerts on the south lawn. We've heard suggestions that maybe a permanent stage be put it or re-arranged," said Lyons.

Simek said he hoped further development of the park could help it to become the "cultural heart" of the city.

UT officials have expressed a need to eventually replace the Clarence Brown Theater, located on campus. 

The university has no concrete plans, but is open to ideas, including a possible new venue near the park. 

"Personally, I feel very strongly that under the right circumstances that moving that (the theatre) into the public sphere will do nothing but good," Simek told the crowd.

Group members have pointed to further developing the park to be key to linking the UT campus and downtown.  

Other members see further park development as a way to enhance the overall atmosphere.

"Some of all us in the cultural community have talked about World's Fair Park being like the Mall of Washington and having all kinds of experiences," said David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art.  

Some residents say they would like the park to have more activity, especially more concerts.

"There are a lot of gaps in between things, events going on there. I would like to see more of them," said Tyler Pavlis, a Knoxville resident. The group is planning to meet next in Mid-July, with the intention to meet on a monthly basis.

Among the members of the group are:

· Co-Chairs: Bill Lyons, City of Knoxville, and Jan Simek, University of Tennessee
· Christi Branscom, Senior Director of Public Works, City of Knoxville
· Jenny Banner, Community and UT Arts Supporter
· Nick Cazana, Holiday Inn at World's Fair Park
· David Butler, Knoxville Museum of Art
· Scott Rabenold, University of Tennessee
· Calvin MacLean, Clarence Brown Theatre
· Becky Ashe, Knox County Schools
· Mary Bogert, Knoxville Convention Center
· Marianne Greene, The Foundry

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