Once upon a time downtown Knoxville had a lovely Gateway Visitor’s Center. It was easy to find and had plenty of free parking. The inside was packed with free brochures and maps for Knoxville and all the surrounding counties. There was even a bit of a free museum on the second floor. When Sarah was assigned a report on culture we were able to gather enough information and pictures to do her report. Skip ahead to summer 2004 when we are looking for something special to do for Tommy’s birthday. The Gateway center is closed and the visitor center is now a tiny gift/coffee shop in downtown Knoxville with no free parking. In fact, you must cross a very busy downtown street to get there after you pay a huge fee to park. There are very few brochures out on display (and zero maps) since they are now all in the “Knoxville Tourism Corps” offices. A nice public service is now an inaccessible storefront business. A few weeks ago South Knox Bubba had a lively discussion about downtown parking. Several people insisted that there is plenty of free parking downtown and there were also commenters who encouraged the use of public transportation (buses) and bicycles. I just don’t think Knoxville visitors are going to be arriving on bikes or buses. I also don’t think they’ll have the patience to hunt down free parking and I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide against dragging their families across the dangerous downtown streets to grab a couple of brochures.

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