KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As Knoxville continues to grow and tourists continue to pour into the area, a new ambassador program is looking to connect visitors and locals to a downtown experience unlike ever before.
“Coming out of COVID, there’s just been this huge spotlight put on all the downtown settings, and the visitors need to feel safe, to feel clean, to feel welcome, to feel like they have access to information,” president of Visit Knoxville, Kim Bumpas said.
The ambassador program is called K-Town Connect. It is a partnership between the City of Knoxville, Visit Knoxville, the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, Knox County, and Block by Block, who is responsible for managing it.
The program will cost roughly $300,000 annually, but it’s one everyone involved says they believe in.
“I’m passionate about the program, I think it’s going to be great,” Bumpas said.
Three full-time ambassadors will be seen strolling the downtown Knoxville Streets from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“These folks have a background in social services and are skilled in how you might deal with certain situations in a downtown setting,” Bumpas said.
The ambassadors will be responsible for providing information about what downtown has to offer, making sure to keep the environment clean, and discouraging aggressive solicitation and other prohibited behaviors, as well as reporting crime. All of this put in place to make sure people feel comfortable.
“We can kind of triage some of those situations where people feel uncomfortable,” Anthony Boone, the regional vice president of Block by Block, said. “So if someone is aggressively panhandling or yelling or gesturing, we can get in and kind of calm that, deescalate that situation down and allow police officers to focus on things that are higher level and can be more dangerous.”
This program has been seen in over 140 different cities and they have been preparing for the last six weeks to bring it to Knoxville.
“We’re your friend, we’re your family. When you see us, please understand that you have a resource, that you have someone who cares about your experience downtown, and if you feel uncomfortable come say hey, if you’re having a great day come say hey, if you’re having a bad day come say hey. We’re going to actively be looking for people to greet and talk to.”
The ambassadors will be housed in the Visit Knoxville office, and a website will also be going up in the next week or two where anyone can go to find out more information.