ear (2006-16)

The Show That Broke the Arena

Just So You’ll Know

TVA Land Rush

Another Wreck Avoided

You Want to Have a Party?

Bug in Our Ear

The Show That Broke the Arena

Thompson-Boling Arena, completed less than 20 years ago, is generally considered East Tennessee’s premier venue for arena-sized shows, and it’s still touted as the nation’s second-largest on-campus basketball arena; it has rarely been criticized for technical inadequacies. Roundly jeered as an eyesore when it was built, it was said to be constructed for function more than form.

KISS has played there, Sting , Kanye West , REM , Prince —all sorts of razzle-dazzle shows calling for fireworks, giant-screen videos, and suspension acrobatics. But somehow it’s not up to the technical standards of this husband-wife country-music team known for its love duets.

The rumor, parroted on talk radio for the last several days, was that the real reason for the cancellation was that early ticket sales for the 8,000-seat, $85 show were disappointing. Thompson-Boling management insists the reasons were technical. The weight load to be suspended from the rafters “fell outside the limit that we could safely install,” according to TBA manager Tim Reese in a statement last week.

The McGraw/Hill show is said to feature an unusual, newly invented, and apparently heavy type of stage lighting. Does that suggest that the Thompson-Boling Arena is already outmoded? Most of the tour’s concentrating on bigger cities with venues you’d figure could handle anything, like New York’s Madison Square Garden. However, the same show that threatened to break Thompson-Boling is scheduled for Rupp Arena in Lexington on May 14—and for the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, SC, late next month. We’ll have to see how they handle it. 

Just So You’ll Know

TVA Land Rush

The new board is a collection of high-powered business executives, but what position they will take on the issue is a mystery. Before they took office the interim board, headed by Bill Baxter , approved a multi-million dollar land swap with John “Thunder” Thornton for TVA land on Nickajack Lake.

The new part-time TVA board of directors has demonstrated its independence first thing, and it is an interesting dynamic to watch. Baxter would have seemed to be a logical choice as chair for the new board, having served for some time and being more familiar with the inner workings of the agency. In fact, most of the employees inside the TVA tower thought Baxter as chair was a done deal.

The board’s first action, however, was to elect Knoxville businessman Bill Sansom as chair of the newly constituted board. Sansom is a no-nonsense, hard-nosed businessman who does not suffer fools gladly.

Some legislators are concerned about rumors that Thornton may bring in development partners or even sell the development after using his political connections to get the deal approved.

Another Wreck Avoided

After reviewing the situation and being told by powerful Democrats in Nashville that losing the seat to the Republicans was too great a risk, the project was abandoned.

You Want to Have a Party?

All this turmoil comes as the Democratic Party has been trying to organize its major fundraiser for the year for Democratic candidates—a Truman Day Dinner. The lack of a big-name speaker, slow ticket sales and general organizational problems are plaguing the event. This at a time when the Democrats have Gov. Phil Bredesen running for re-election and Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., running for an open U.S. Senate seat.

The situation is further exacerbated by tension between Democratic officeholders who have some ideas about potential Democratic candidates for Commission at odds with the more liberal activists that comprise the party leadership. In the 1st District, for instance, Commissioners Tank Strickland and Diane Jordan and state Rep. Joe Armstrong want to be involved in selecting a candidate to replace Jordan who can win in August.