Knoxvillians can rest easier after the enlightening Jan. 31 City Council workshop on Universe Knoxville. Why? Because UK developers and backers are plenty confident in the project. This news came as a great relief to all those who had harbored fears that the UKites were not plenty confident in their project. But, not only were the UKites plenty confident in it, they were also plenty committed to it. And furthermore, they were plenty committed to UK being pretty much anything Council wants it to be, too.
This confidence and commitment came out in the question and answer session council held with the UKites. Council members asked many pertinent, insightful, and specific questions. And they got interesting answers. Here is one of them: "The food court will not be a dining experience. It will be a convenience experience." Here is another one: "Remember, this will not just be an educational experience; it will also be an entertainment experience." Obviously, considerable experience is associated with this project!
Many other answers were proffered. In truth, abundant answers were available on the project; a random sample of them is presented below. Don't be concerned that you don't know what the questions were. That's not important. What is important is for you to be confident that these are the best answers available at this time. Why should you be confident that these are the best answers? Because you've been assured that they are, that's why. So, here are answers about Universe Knoxville:
"I can't give you any specifics on that."
"Specifics aren't available for the Smithsonian or other possible tie-ins."
"We can't be specific about that board today."
"We're not sure..."
"There's not a specific process in place for that right now."
"The first study was done before we had any idea..."
"There are vague issues associated with this project."
"But we are committed to it."
"I can only assure you that Universe Knoxville will be connected to downtown."
"If this a stand-alone thing, then we've wasted our time. But we're strongly committed to seeing this stimulate activity."
"We're confident it will all come together at the end of the day."
"Visitations" were mentioned several times in other answers. They seemed very important in defining what success for this project will mean. Many different totals for visitations were mentioned: 435,000 visitations, 600,000 visitations, and 800,000 visitations. Whether these visitations were expected to be political, divine, supernatural, or extraterrestrial in nature remains unclear.
What else? Well, some of the things that the supporters are committed to are plasma screens and statement-making architecture that is visible from the interstate. I believe the plasma screen only has to be visible from Market Square, but it is a deal-breaker if the big pyramid and sphere atop Universe Knoxville are not visible from the interstate. Whether travelers have expressed a desire to see these things from the interstate was not addressed.
Bond issues were important as well. In fact, at one point during the session discussion of bond issues reached such preeminence that I began to wonder if the next 007 movie is going to be filmed here. Seemingly, the answer to every question about specific details of the project was "that will all be covered in the bond documents" or some variation thereof.
I've saved discussion of developers' fees for last because, clearly, this is the least important subject to UKites. UK backers and developers alike are strongly committed to appearing completely indifferent to fees. Thus, some answers about fees were, "There's been very little discussion about it to this point." "I do not expect to take one dime out of this project personally." And to really drive home the point, this strong statement was made: "The answer on fees is: 'We don't know.'"
All of this occurred Jan. 31. On Tuesday, Feb. 5, Council voted, with complete confidence and commitment, to affirm that they can't be specific about voting on Universe Knoxville at this time. No, no, seriously, Council voted 9-0 to approve five million bucks for UK, dependent upon certain criteria being met. And Knoxvillians are all resting easier now...