Knoxville takes the first step toward putting itself on the map as a premier outdoor recreation community with the launch of “Outdoor Knoxville”, a three-pronged initiative to capitalize on the exceptional outdoor recreational assets found in and around Knoxville. It includes a new Adventure Center, a website and a three-day festival this summer.
The most visible presence for Outdoor Knoxville will be the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center to be created in the City-owned Gateway Pavilion Building at Volunteer Landing. Legacy Parks Foundation, a Knoxville-based non-profit focused on expanding parks, open space and recreational opportunities, will operate the center in partnership with River Sports Outfitters.
“Outdoor Knoxville will showcase our trails, parks, waterways and greenways for both visitors and Knoxville residents,” said Mayor Madeline Rogero. “We have great opportunities here for recreation in beautiful natural settings just minutes from downtown, and this effort will help promote those and encourage everyone to get out and enjoy them.”
The Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center will serve as the recreational hub for not only Knoxville but also the entire region. It is centrally located with easy connections to downtown Knoxville, the University of Tennessee, I-40, and all the trails and greenways on both sides of the river. It is also a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, the nation’s most-visited national park.
Outdoor Knoxville will be a destination through a unique mix of boutique retail, outdoor equipment rentals and sales, and local events and excursions.
Legacy Parks Foundation will locate its office on the second level and manage the space for public events and activities. The theater and large room will be made available for public use. Recreational, civic and community groups will be encouraged to hold meetings in the space for a nominal charge. These rentals for business and private functions would generate revenue to support Legacy Parks Foundation’s operations and mission.
River Sports Outfitters, a 29-year-old recreational retailer and outdoor excursion provider in Knoxville, will manage the first level. They will feature boat, stand-up paddleboard and bike rentals as well as retail space offering outdoor gear and equipment. Premium outdoor brands Patagonia, The North Face, Smart Wool and Mountain Hardware will create boutique concept shops within the River Sports Outfitters retail space.
In addition to the rental and retail components, Legacy Parks Foundation and River Sports Outfitters will offer public programs and group outings from the facility. Maps, directions and general information about recreational opportunities throughout the region will be provided at an information center in the building. Outdoor-related events held at the facility will bring people down to the Knoxville waterfront and get them out to play.
The Gateway Pavilion Building is owned by the city, and originally housed the Gateway Regional Visitors Center. In recent years, the building has been vacant, and the city has paid to maintain it. City Council will be asked to approve a lease with Legacy Parks Foundation at its March 6 meeting. If approved, the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center will open in mid-April.
The second element of the Outdoor Knoxville initiative is a new website, OutdoorKnoxville.com. It is a robust, comprehensive portal to all outdoor recreational activities, venues, and events in our region. This highly interactive website has gathered information, videos, photos, and other related content from a broad and inclusive variety of sources, creating an easy-to-use resource for all levels of outdoor adventurers. The site officially launched today.
OutdoorKnoxville.com will position Knoxville, and the region, as a recreational destination by showcasing the abundance of parks, trails, greenways, activities, and amenities that we enjoy in Knoxville.
It will be a powerful tool for everyone
Residents can plan their outings or activities at the spur of the moment
Potential businesses and residents will get the best view of our quality of life offerings
Hotels can easily accommodate guests’ requests for activities without searching multiple websites
Travel professionals can plan unique excursions using sources from the site
Businesses can advertise their related goods and services to a highly targeted audience
Recruiters can use the site to highlight the region’s recreational benefits
Event producers can promote their events to a motivated user group
Legacy Parks Foundation has developed the site with a skilled advisory team. Elle Colquitt, author of the popular “Mini Adventure Series” of guidebooks for on- and off-road adventures around Tennessee, has developed all the content. She will keep the content current and exciting, review and manage all postings, maintain the Facebook page, and produce a weekly e-newsletter showcasing events and local activities. In addition, she will aggressively market the site locally, regionally, and nationally to users, content providers, sponsors and advertisers.
OutdoorKnoxville.com also offers a year-round activity calendar that can be added to by anyone. Additionally, users are able to submit videos and photos as well as offer their experiences, advice, and review on events, trails and venues. Information will always be current, descriptive, and easy to use.
Outdoor KnoxFest is the third key element in the initiative. Outdoor KnoxFest will be a three-day event, Aug. 24 -26, that promotes a variety of outdoor recreational venues and opportunities throughout East Tennessee and encourages people of all levels of experience to participate. The Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center will be the hub of these activities. The events will include:
An all-day adventure race
A metric century bike ride organized by the Smoky Mountain Wheelmen
A cross-country mountain bike trial designed by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club
A trail run organized by the Knoxville Track Club
A variety of guided hikes
A community bike ride
Boat and bike demos and rentals
A climbing wall
Films and speakers
This event will attract participants from throughout the region, including Asheville, Atlanta and Nashville.
Legacy Parks Foundation has been actively working to make East Tennessee a recreational destination of the Southeast. The initial work has been focused on creating a 1,000-acre urban wilderness and recreational corridor stretching along the Tennessee River’s south shore, from the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area to Alcoa Highway. This corridor will parallel and connect to the greenways along the north side of the river.
During the past five years Legacy Parks Foundation has raised more than $3 million for parks, greenways and recreational venues, added more than 200 acres of parkland to Knox County and helped protect nearly 1,000 acres of farm and forest land in East Tennessee.