Three years ago, Copper Moon Entertainment approached the management of Knoxville Harley-Davidson with an idea: build a 4,000-capacity outdoor live-music venue that could offer people affordable tickets to see B-level country music acts like Gretchen Wilson and Dierks Bentley.
"We're in the motorcycle business. We're not in the music business," says Thane Johnson, who's in charge of events and entertainment at the dealership. "[But] Copper Moon came to us with a real strong background in the music industry."
And so Johnson and the Harley dealership were persuaded that such a venue would be viable just outside the Knoxville city limits. Though booking and organizing concerts will rest on the shoulders of Copper Moon's four-person staff at the dealership, Johnson says the stage, which will include a deck and lighting, will be the dealership's to use for their own events, such as bike nights. Currently those events are held in the parking lot.
"[The venue] will certainly be a nice place to sit down and enjoy an event," Johnson says. The venue doesn't have a name yet, but Johnson says it will fill a void for people in West Knoxville, the western part of Knox County, and places like Lenoir City and Kingston. And Johnson says the main difference between this venue and other Knoxville mainstays like Thompson-Boling Arena, the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, and the Tennessee Theatre is that it will be outdoors and offer "affordable" ticket prices, though Johnson didn't say how much money is considered affordable.
Harley-Davidson is partnering with the Copper Cellar Corporation, which includes the Copper Cellar restaurant, Calhoun's, and the Smoky Mountain Brewery, to provide food and drink at the venue through the end of 2014. Johnson said there will be beer and wine sold for the bigger events, but not at every show. There won't be any liquor sold, either.
The venue is scheduled to be up and running by fall, but Johnson hinted that "if the weather's good to us, it may be before fall."