The argument over whether Sundown in the City is good for downtown Knoxville’s Market Square is about to ruin a party I’m planning - and I’m not happy about it.
The problem: I have friends on both sides of the fight - and most have very strong opinions about this subject. Harsh words and insults have passed between the groups. “Party” is not the word that immediately comes to mind when I think of getting them all together in one place.
Here’s the issue. Sundown, of course, is a series of free rock concerts held every Thursday night on Market Square. Wildly popular, they have been known to attract 10,000 fans. And that’s the problem. While most of the attendees are responsible and just there to have a good time, some patrons (mostly underaged) don’t seem to know how to behave.
As someone who both lives and works downtown, here are a few of the things I’ve witnessed:
- Teenaged girl vomiting in an alley off Gay Street as her friends stood around;
- Groups of kids drinking and smoking in a downtown parking garage when I went there to get my car — and they weren’t too happy to see me;
- Folks at Salon Visage on Market Square closing early on Thursday to avoid the smoke wafting into their business from a vendor’s grill positioned right outside their door and staffed by some of the well-known downtown homeless population;
- The owner of Two Centre Square calling police to keep a group of teens from damaging the sculpture of the “rowboat man” as they tried to steal the paddle;
- Young unsupervised teens hanging around Krutch Park in an apparently impaired state.
On the other hand, it’s fun! The music last night was good (if too loud) and the crowd was orderly. The patios of the bars and cafes on Market Square were packed - and they charge a premium for those seats on Sundown nights.
Here are some of the thoughts about changes to Sundown that are going around:
- Move it to World’s Fair Park. It has outgrown Market Square as a venue. It was a boost to the Square when it began years ago, but now it is a headache to many of the businesses there. Folks who want to enjoy what Market Square has become actually avoid the area when the concerts are scheduled. Businesses have to close to avoid shoplifters and non-patrons who use and destroy their bathrooms. Market Square residents are inconvenienced. (For instance, I attended a party last night at one of the lofts on Market Square. Because almost everyone brought wine, they had to skulk in through a back alley to avoid the gauntlet of security folks keeping alcohol from entering the Square. Don’t want to cut into on-site beer sales, you know!) On the flip side, the World’s Fair Park is a more expensive location to hold the concerts, which organizers don’t like.
- Move the concerts around. Share the wealth. Close some roads and put some of the shows in the Old City at the corner of Central and Jackson, benefiting the clubs and restaurants in that area. The downside: cost and hassle. It’s easier to have them in the same place each week.
- Encourage organizers to be more selective about the performers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that some bands attract a rowdier crowd than others.
- Turn down the volume! (That’s my suggestion. I mean, Jeez!)
- Increase police presence in the parking garages and areas surrounding Market Square.
None of these ideas is new. My friend Andie Ray, the host of last night’s party, says they’ve been discussed for years to no avail.
Meanwhile my friend Laurens Tullock says the kids who are puking on Gay Street today will be the ones who will purchase downtown condos in five years. It’s good for them to feel comfortable downtown.
I predict the discussion will rage on. And, in the meantime, I’ve figured out the solution to my party dilemma. The last Sundown concert for this year is June 25. After that, surely the “hot topic” will become something else downtown. I’ll just schedule my party a few weeks after that!
Another discussion of this subject: http://www.wigsphere.com/