cover_story (2006-01)

Looking back at the record and its list of accomplishments and failures is a lot easier than looking forward to predict outcomes that mere mortals can never see with certainty.

Undaunted by notions of reality, however, the Metro Pulse staff has mustered its best imitations of area psychic Bobby Drinnen and the late, lamented Johnny Carson’s brilliant prognosticator, Carnac the Magnificent, to gaze into 2006 with a little bit of perspicacity and a lot of imagination.

We predict that dozens, perhaps scores of our predictions will not come to pass, but the exercise itself gives us a fresh perspective on the future of Knoxville, and we hope it jogs our readers’ minds and gets them thinking about what we can expect, hope for, and attempt to influence in the coming year. Read on.

Theater Drama: A Grand Finale After several years of sputtering, some dire economic straits, and a year’s utter darkness, the 750-seat, 97-year-old Bijou Theatre will reopen in the spring, thanks in large part to some deep-pocketed Knoxvillians and a fundraising campaign led by Mayor Haslam. It might seem daunting to reemerge facing its larger, grander old rival, the Tennessee, so extravagantly refurbished just two blocks down the street—if not for the fact that the company that’s operating the Tennessee, AC Entertainment, will also be operating the Bijou, programming shows there that better suit a smaller audience. The old vaudeville house is a venue with which that resourceful company has some experience, especially in the realm of intimate live music, which was once a Bijou specialty. No specific shows are booked for the Bijou, but look for some life around the old joint by April.

Downtown Retail Rejuvenation Mast General Store, a sort of reinterpretation of the old urban department store for lively young folk, that has proven successful in North Carolina, will open in the old Newcomers (a.k.a. White Store) building on Gay Street in August. It promises to be the major retail anchor downtown has lacked since Watson’s closed.

Coming Attractions If things go better than we have any right to expect them to, the much-delayed new eight-screen Regal cinema will open near the end of the year—November, tentatively, in time for the holidays blockbusters ( Narnia II: Revenge of the Wardrobe )—in the big empty space on Gay Street, much of which was once home to the Riviera Theatre. The result of years of negotiations and patches of complicated funding from public and private sources, it will be the first movie theater in the downtown area in about 30 years—and, incredibly, the first multiplex ever built in central Knoxville, or within five miles of the university. It was originally touted as the driving engine for the redevelopment of Market Square—which has somehow been growing without it.

West Knoxville’s First Skyscraper? As FirstBank opens a full-service downtown branch in the General Building downtown in January, the Lexington, Tenn., institution is announcing plans to be part of a partnership to build West Knoxville’s first skyscraper: the 12-story Fountains at Parkside, near Pellissippi Parkway. No due date has been announced.

Cafeteria Style The S&W, the ‘30s art-deco cafeteria adjacent to the cinema space, is being redeveloped by three partners—Wayne Blasius, John Craig and Faris Eid—who each have downtown track records, and sound like they’re close to announcing their plans for the space. The building has been empty since the S&W closed in the early ‘80s, and, over the years, legally looted of most of its memorable furnishings, but its suddenly sexy location has convinced some investors it’ll be downtown’s next hotspot.

The same team will develop the upper floors above the new Mast General Store as residential suites.

Grocer on the Square The downtown residential resurgence has happened in spite of the lack of a full-service grocery. A.G. Hamby’s is due to arrive on Market Square, better late than never, in late spring, as David Dewhirst finishes construction on the first-floor retail of the old Watson’s space, underneath the already occupied Chamber Partnership offices above. That date represents a delay of almost a year, credited to construction problems.

Kosher Plans The old Harold’s building is expected to reopen in 2006; the building’s new owner, developer John Craig, hopes to put in a restaurant/bar in the Harold’s space, and is leaving it open how much the place will resemble the venerable kosher deli. Upstairs, though, will be significantly different; what was until the ‘60s a second-floor speakeasy gambling saloon will be an upscale residence.

McClung Warehouse Un-development Someone will finally fix up the McClung Warehouses on Jackson Avenue as residential space, as a developer originally promised in the ‘90s. No, we’re just kidding! Gosh, you’ll believe anything. Though things are stirring in early 2006, we suspect the giant eyesore will keep its busted windows displayed toward the interstate throughout the year, as it has done so ably for so long.

Get a Room “Knoxville’s a great place to live, but I wouldn’t want to visit there,” someone said. Downtown’s big four hotels have been content with stasis, none volunteering to boost themselves to major “headquarters hotel” status, while complaining about stagnant booking on non-Vol weekends. But suddenly new hotels are popping up to turn up the heat. The six-story Hampton Inn, due to open in the spring, is at least an architecturally welcome addition at Henley and Main, on a site that had been a dead filling station. Swank Cumberland House Hotel, Peyton Manning’s baby on the town end of Fort Sanders that opened in the fall, will see how its first full year of operation works out. And the former Days Inn just off Cumberland Avenue will emerge from its chrysalis as what’s billed as a new sort of “affordable luxury” hotel, called Hotel Indigo, which promises to “inspire” its guests—partly by changing its style, including its exterior mural, on a regular basis. It opens in April, and we can’t wait to gawk.

We predict that in 2006, we’ll either find some way to draw tourists to fill the hotels—or convert one or more of them into condos.

The South Will Rise Again? The city’s Southside project, which promises to redevelop Knoxville’s long-beleaguered Left Bank, will finish the public-review phase of the project and proceed with more specific planning and acquisition. It may be the biggest project in Knoxville in the early 21st century, but we’re not expecting to see anything visibly dramatic to happen over there in 2006.

Meanwhile, an upscale condo project that jumped the gun, CityView at Riverwalk, perhaps anticipating the promised Southside riverwalk, which is probably still a few years off, will open right across from UT, forever changing eccentric old Scottish Pike. Its boat slips may suggest the river downtown will see more commuting traffic than it has known since the days of Suttree .

Development Au Naturale 2006 will be no picnic for Ijams Nature Center. No, the year will closer resemble a candlelit dining room spread, with South Knox Waterfront development seated at the head of the blueprint-draped table. With every move the 20-acre wildlife sanctuary makes, it will be distinguishing itself as a vibrant floral centerpiece—rather than a dinky side-salad—around which developers must plan the waterfront’s future. Its array of educational, recreational and cultural opportunities will be at once colorful and fragrant, stepping up its already-established calendar of bug nights, scout camps, starlight hikes, and hands-on-nature activities with the addition of some new events, such as a spring nature-art show and auction entitled “Artfully Ijams.” A portion of the proceeds will benefit One Ton, an ongoing public art series of sculpture installations carved from pink Tennessee marble. Artists interested in participating in the show may visit for more information. Additional projects in the works include a new raptor enclosure designed to accommodate two live birds-of-prey (they’re thinking a red-tailed hawk plus a large owl, or maybe a turkey vulture) and improvements to the visitor’s center.

Suburban Urban Northshore Town Center may never be much like an actual town—or, for that matter, a center of anything discernible. But in 2006, the development on the northeast corner of Northshore Drive and Pellissippi Parkway will become at least an unusual neighborhood of houses close together, just as they were in the old days, with front porches and alleys. It’s promised to be a neighborhood where most of life’s essentials are in walking distance. It has created a stir of interest from prospective residents, and construction of several homes by local homebuilder Mike Stevens should be underway as we speak. Retail has been slow to commit, but developer James Doran Co. of Charleston, S.C., says they’ll begin building retail space, of old-fashioned brick buildings, in early 2006, confident that tenants will follow. Real-estate developers all over the area will watch with interest, trying to discern if we’ll all be living like that when gasoline hits $20 a gallon.

Reviving History The Museum of East Tennessee History, closed since late 2003 due to massive remodeling and construction of the history center, the rest of which opened in early 2005, is hopeful of reopening sometime in the year 2006. Exactly when isn’t something that’s easy to nail down, but funding is reportedly coming together under the aegis of the East Tennessee Historical Society, and construction of interior walls will be underway in the early part of the year.

The Other Phoenix Building The Crimson Building, the conspicuous residential/office building on the corner of Gay and Summit Hill that was badly damaged in a fire almost a year ago, will be renovated. We hope. That’s what the owners are saying. Insurance has been slow to pony up due to uncertainties about the fire’s origin, but former residents are expecting they’ll celebrate the fire’s second anniversary, in January 2007, in a restored Crimson.

Something to Sing About The Knoxville Opera Company’s Rossini Festival, planned for the first time without its godfather, Frank Graffeo, will be held on April 8. We’ve called it Knoxville’s best all-around festival, and the reportedly cash-strapped opera company claims the fifth annual articulation of it will be bigger and better than ever. Now under the leadership of general director Brian Selesky, they’re already predicting crowds to the Italian Street Fair of upwards of 65,000. The KOC has been proud of the fact that it’s the only Rossini Festival in America, and so have we. But one striking oddity of the 2006 festival is that it will be a Rossini Festival without any Rossini at all. In fact, it’ll be the first Rossini festival without any opera, strictly speaking. Previous festivals have typically paired a Rossini opera with another opera by another Italian contemporary. However, this year, the KOC’s performance at the Tennessee Theatre will be of a 1950s Broadway musical by Frank Loesser, The Most Happy Fella . It’s not opera, it’s not 19th-century, and it’s not Italian, exactly—though the plot does concern some Italian-Americans in Napa Valley, Calif. Cynics might see it as a symptom of the natural deterioration that seems to afflict all worthwhile annual events in Knoxville after the first few years; everything turns corny in the end. But after a half-gallon of Gallo, who cares. Everybody likes standing on the corner watching all the girls go by, anyway. Unlike in the song, though, the KPD will decide whether you can go to jail for what you’re thinking. Better keep that woo look out of your eye, pal.

Redefining Our Favorite Flower Fest The Dogwood Arts Festival, well underway in a painful detackyfication process, will be held April 5 to 23, if we’re to count all the auto trails (contingent on gasoline staying under $5 a gallon), luncheons, concerts and art shows. A major fundraiser, the Dogwood Village Home and Garden Show, will be held in the convention center in late February. The festival as a whole has to cast a wide net to be sure they snag the blooming of our favorite tree, but it was rumored that the festive portions of the festival would be moving to World’s Fair Park this year; the last we hear, though, is that it will be on Market Square again, concentrated on one weekend, April 6-9. Yes, it’s the same weekend as Rossini, which enhances the parking challenge and raises the bar for overt festivity; on previous weekends when downtown’s two spring festivals have mysteriously aligned on the same day, DAF’s sober family party didn’t always fare well in comparison. Interestingly, if the website’s correct, the festival’s parade will come two weeks later, on Saturday, April 22, as a kind of finale for the whole 18-day deal.

Beer and Baklava After a couple of years of experimenting with hosting megafestivals in World’s Fair Park, the Greek Festival will be held in October back in its previous location, the parking lot of St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Kingston Pike. The 2005 festival was held on a scorching weekend in August. Judging by the lines and the scarcity of chairs at mealtimes, it was plenty popular, but it was a financial failure. Organizers apparently think St. George’s hallowed old parking lot’s a safer bet.

The East Tennessee Brewers’ Jam, the beer-drinker’s answer to Woodstock, and one of Knoxville’s most popular one-day festivals, has no problem with World’s Fair Park at all, and will return there on the non-football weekend in October. Organizers say the last one was so successful they have no reason to change a thing.

Life in a Forgotten Wetland Our westerly predictions: Turkey Creek, the wildly successful commercial development off Lovell Road in West Knox County, will threaten to annex neighboring Farragut, unless the Farragutians stop protesting T.C.’s expansion and repeal their sign control ordinance.

Farragut will respond by opening its own town-financed Bed, Bath & Beyond. Turkey Creek will laugh that off by opening two more Bed, Bath & Beyond stores, including a BB&B factory outlet and a Beyond Boutique model with a latte bar and nail salon.

Bass Pro Shops, Inc. reveals that it would have picked Turkey Creek over its Sevier County location, but the sport palace couldn’t afford the land-lease cost on the T.C. real estate, estimated by mid-2006 to exceed in value that of downtown San Diego and much of Manhattan Island.

Look for the village concept to be supplanted by the megalopolis concept, with Lenoir City at Turkey Creek’s new core, Lord willing and the Creek keeps rising.

Fun with Supercomputers The nerds at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have a lofty New Year’s resolution for their pet supercomputer, a Cray XT3 affectionately known as “Jaguar.” In 2006, they’re expanding its operation to perform 100 trillion calculations per second, making it the world’s fastest computer for scientific uses. Its peak processing capacity will jump from 25 teraflops to about 100, with an increase in its cabinet configuration, or something, and while we’re not exactly sure what that means, it certainly sounds impressive. Keep up the good work, kids.

Bombs Away Y-12, for all its cutting-edge nuclear charm, is still housed in what is largely a decaying WWII-era facility. However, if a billion dollar proposal to construct a new uranium processing facility goes through—and despite the critics (a core group of anti-nuclear activists who won’t be happy until they dismantle the whole operation), it looks like it will—Y-12 will join the rest of us in the 21st century. The new facility will reduce the size of Y-12 from 150 acres to 15 acres and consolidate processing operations from several older buildings into one 130,000-square-foot structure. The modernization would mean improvements to Y-12’s security, safety, environmental-friendliness and cost-efficiency—with the exception of that billion dollar down payment, of course. The public comment period ends Jan. 31 with a design period starting in 2006 and a 2013 completion date.

Well, Shit 2006 puts the city into year No. 2 of Knoxville Utility Board’s “PACE (Partners Acting for a Cleaner Environment) 10” wastewater system improvement program, a decade-length sewage marathon intended to address environmental needs, help KUB meet regulatory requirements, and upgrade the city’s aging wastewater utilities. The upside: cleaner waterways. Projects to be completed in 2006 include the replacement of a Williams Creek gravity sewer (March) and the rehabilitation of a Walker Springs Pump Station (August). The downside: Wastewater rates could triple over the next 10 years to accommodate the program’s $530 million cost. The city will also be subject to “large construction projects that will likely disrupt traffic,” according to KUB’s website. Oh, well, we’re used to it.

A Roof Over Our Heads Coming to a downtown street corner near you: three new Knox Area Transit bus shelters, each of whose architecture was dreamed up by the winners of a KAT-sponsored design contest held last year. Winner of the student category was Monica Verastegui, a UT third-year architecture major, whose environmentally themed vision will come to fruition at the World’s Fair Park. In the intern architect category, a modern-meets-traditional structure designed by the Smee Architecture team of Melissa Sisneros and Chris Woodcock will go up off Gay Street beside Krutch Park. And in the professional division, a KAT route-themed shelter designed by Christina Betanzos Pint of Lewis Group Architects will be realized on Gay Street at the First Tennessee Bank. The shelters will be built in early 2006, just in time to shield our heads from springtime showers and the return of those damn, pooping starlets. 

Earth-friendly Fueling When it comes to air pollution, Knoxville would do well to follow its environmentally progressive Southern neighbor’s lead. In February 2005, Chattanooga was the first city in Tennessee to switch its entire city fleet of diesel vehicles—from dump trucks to pickups to bulldozers—to a 5-percent biodiesel blend (or B5, in alternative fuel slang). Biodiesel, a fuel derived primarily from vegetable oil, reduces emissions of sulfur, hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and monoxide, particulates, carcinogens, and other airborne nastiness. And the city plans to up its own ante soon; plans are underway to move to a B20 blend (20-percent biodiesel, 80-percent petroleum-based diesel), which would reduce Chattanooga’s petrodiesel consumption by over 100,000 gallons annually. That’s nothing to sneeze, or perhaps more appropriately, cough at. And just up the Interstate, some sectors of Knoxville are doing their part as well—most notably Knox Area Transit, the biggest user of biodiesel in East Tennessee. KAT’s Clean Fuels program, which includes both biodiesel-fueled and hybrid-electric vehicles, now involves 80 percent of KAT’s fleet. It’s an impressive start, and we look forward to watching the trend trickle down to other city vehicles as well. Painted up right and with the addition of some flashing lights, we think a Toyota Prius would make one mean police car. 

Ready, Set, Run In a satisfaction survey completed after last year’s inaugural Knoxville Marathon (which also included a half-marathon and 5K), over 75 percent of the runners said that they would return in 2006—this in spite of the post-race sensation that they’d just been run over by a freight train. In addition, Covenant Health signed on shortly thereafter for a second year as the event’s title sponsor. As the countdown to this year’s marathon approaches, all signs point to go: The second annual marathon, scheduled for March 26, 2006, promises to be larger, faster and sweatier than the first. Also, as an added incentive for runners in need of a little extra motivation during these toe-numbing winter training months, the organizers promise better goody bags and an after-party that’s a little closer to the finish line.

Big Orange Construction The bottlenecking on I-40 around Papermill has already caused headaches and incited road rage in even the most placid motorists. WVLT has been joking that traffic is only congested morning, noon and night. Expect more interstate slogs in 2006, as the tentative completion date is Xmas. Considering past TDOT predictions, an un-congested Christmas is nothing more than sweet naïveté, which will turn us into Scrooges when we write about gridlock well into 2007. At least all the orange cones will remind us of our slapdash football team while traffic inches along this year.

Bypass Surgery If the proposed-for-2006 Knoxville Regional Parkway is the knife, Hardin Valley is the operating room—although some of its occupants argue that a 36.5-mile four-lane parkway slicing through their rural community is an unnecessarily intrusive procedure. Formerly called the Orange Route, the parkway is designed as a bypass to divert downtown commuters from I-40. Design recommendations will be presented in a series of four workshops in February 2006, and a finalized plan should be ready by March. Hardin Valley residents will have plenty of time to simmer, however, before the parkway takes hold: No funding has been yet secured, and TDOT is not expected to begin buying up land until 2008.

A Food City City How doth Food City love Knoxville? Let us count thy ways: a 48,000-square-foot location planned for Millertown Pike, fully-equipped with gas pumps, expected to open in the spring of 2006; a 43,600-square-foot West Knoxville location to open in spring 2006, in the building formerly occupied by Bi-Lo on Kingston Pike at North Peters Road; and a store in Mechanicsville at Western and Leslie avenues, expected to create 175 new jobs in the lower-income area, whose construction is slated to begin in 2006.

Supergeek, 2006 At concerts, in the bars, even awash in the orange and white on Saturday afternoons, we’ve seen the techies, with their digital cameras and cameraphones. There’s been a strange miscegenation of tech geeks with hipster geeks with sport geeks, all grafting high-tech abracadabra onto their skins. The recombinant possibilities are endless, as any geek can plug into the blogosphere, armed with an iPod, a hard drive full of digitized photographs and some slivers of prose, ranging from vapid to surprisingly poignant.

In 2006, we think Knoxville should start catering to its geeky hoardes. First on our wish list is the installation of a downtown-wide wi-fi do-jigger, which should have technocopian outcomes when savvy geeks get busy with D&D and online community building and generally redefining the dialectics of contemporary philosophy. If not, at least anyone will be able to easily log on and check an e-mail account. Lots of mid-sized cities are doing it, and we can’t afford to fall behind in a tech arms race. The general public certainly seems ripe for more information all the time. With downtown as a wireless hotspot, more nerds should be able to save the money they’d normally spend on Internet and move out of Mother’s house, eventually. They might even become, daresay, cool.

Johnia Hope Berry  Brutally murdered in the morning hours of Dec. 6, 2004 in her Brendon Park apartment, Johnia Berry would have been 22 years old had she lived till 2006. Despite some dead-end leads and hundreds of DNA tests, police still can’t determine who killed the young woman. But we’re heartened by the proliferation of local and national coverage of the case: CNN correspondent Nancy Grace had Berry’s parents on her show for the one-year anniversary of their daughter’s murder; USA Today made a mention of it, and local radio and television stations have renewed coverage efforts regarding the case. In December, Governor Phil Bredesen pledged $25,000 to the Johnia Berry reward fund, raising the total reward to $60,000. We hope that 2006 sees to it that Johnia Berry’s killer is identified, charged and sentenced.

Urban Land Rush Meanwhile, downtown’s going more and more to residences.

In 2006 the old hilltop we know as the central business district is coming to resemble a miniature Manhattan, a trendy and expensive neighborhood. If there’s an end to the market for downtown living, it may begin to show in 2006, with more new residential construction underway than in any year in recent history.

David Dewhirst and his associates will open Fire Street Lofts on West Jackson, the residential rehabilitation of an old industrial building overlooking everyone’s favorite subterranean alley near the Old City; it will render 28 new residential units in February. Dewhirst hopes to finish the long-vacant Cherokee, a century-old brick apartment building at Market and Church, by the end of ‘06.

Dewhirst’s work on the tall, huge, Holston Building at Gay and Clinch, the rehabilitation of the J.C. Penney building (with two extra stories!) and the new residential construction in the Gay Street hole to the north, will have to wait until 2007 or later for completion.

Cardinal Construction is redeveloping most of the Burwell Building, the tall early 20th-century office building beside the Tennessee Theatre once famous for its high-profile law firms.

The nine-story Farragut Building, the office building and former hotel, which is the only one of the tall buildings at the corner of Gay and Clinch that is not actively being renovated for residential condos, has slowly been emptying itself of the offices that have kept the building useful since its long-ago hotel days. The 1919 building is rumored to be on the brink of a sale to develop the building for the purpose of—what else—condos. We expect to hear more about its fate in 2006. Nature abhors a vacuum, and lately Gay Street is positively intolerant of them.

Pickle Mansion Raises the Roof Many of us who’ve lived in the Fort have come to appreciate the quirky, lackadaisical admixture of aging apartments and Fight Club -esque houses. The charred brickwork of the Pickle Mansion, found near the intersection of 17th and Clinch, has for several years now been a poster child for Fort Sanders’ dilapidation. John Haas, an intrepid developer, one of the Fort’s many big-dreamers, has made a name for himself by patching up old buildings bit by bit, those places that haven’t seen any aesthetic love for a long time. His latest, and by far largest, project is the burned-up Pickle Mansion. After hauling out tons—literally tons—of debris from the mansion last year, Haas hopes to have a new roof in place by the end of summer. In the Fort, chaos is not just an absence of order, but a necessary condition for possibility.

Rock Star Wish List Dear local music venues, There have been countless great shows in Knoxville this year, but you know us, always wanting more. We know we may never see the White Stripes stop here (‘cuz they just don’t know how bitchin’ it really is), but here’s a 2006 wish list of bands that we think just might play here if somebody’d just ask: Iron and Wine, New Pornographers, the Shins, John Prine, Sufjan Stevens, Silver Jews, Bright Eyes, Wilco, Spoon, Trey Anastasio, Death Cab for Cutie, Ani DiFranco, Ben Lee, Ben Folds, Green Day, Andrew Bird, John Vanderslice, Fiona Apple, and Mike Patton’s Tomahawk.

And, please dawgs, bring us some more hip-hop! We loved having Kanye here this year. He was big and bold and beautiful. We want Jamie Foxx, Common, Paul Wall, Young Jeezy. We want Nelly to perform “Grillz” here in Knoxville, even though we’ve never seen anyone actually wear a grill in Knoxville. We want Anthony Hamilton and Ciara and Bow Wow. Seems crazy, we know, but we think Knoxville can support a big name hip-hop act. 

With undying love, Metro Pulse

Sundown Salutations The headliners that graced the stage at Sundown in the City and Autumn on the Square could not have been finer, and we can’t wait to see what happens this year. Still, we have one gripe: where have all the local bands gone? With the exception of a few shows, most opening acts this year were not from around these parts. What gives, AC? We say bring back local openers. And get rid of the camping chairs, too (except for those that need them for health reasons, of course). What’s the good of bringing in danceable bands like Brazilian Girls if people are yelling at you to “sit down in front!” while you’re getting your groove on?

First Friday Our vision for this year’s First Friday celebration is this: The streets downtown are filled by a deluge of people of all demographics, indulging in libations and hors d’oeuvres on outdoor patios, ducking in and out of myriad galleries with provocative local and non-local work. To be honest, though, the canvas of that vision is already stretched and the galleries and businesses have already painted the background. All that was missing this year was the deluge—it was more like a trickling stream of people, with the possible exception of the always-packed Three Flights Up Gallery, which will move into a space in The Emporium starting Jan. 6, 2006’s inaugural First Friday. Anyone who didn’t frolic downtown during at least one of this year’s festivities missed out. What we’re saying is, it’s all here people, come and get it.

The Return of Knoxville Perhaps having gotten his fill of Jessica Simpson and other helium-brained Hollywood bimbos, Johnny Knoxville (a.k.a. PJ Clapp) is planning a return to the wholesome stupidity of his prankster roots: A sequel to 2002’s Jackass: The Movie has been announced by Paramount Studio. If the stars align, he’ll be joined by fellow masochists Bam Margera, Steve-O and Chris Pontius—the same butt cheek-stapling, High Life-guzzling, skateboard-busting crew that made the first film and original television series a hit, and put Knoxville on the MTV map. Financially, the sequel makes sense—for a movie that cost an estimated $5 million to produce, Jackass: The Movie pulled in $65 million at the box office. Jackass II is slated to hit theaters in time for the 2006 holiday season and will be filmed next November.

To Smoke or Not to Smoke This year, MP published a cover story on the possibility that Knoxville might ban smoking. But now that the author of that story has moved on, we say screw that! We love our tasty smoky treats, despite their ravaging effects on our lungs, hearts, clothing and make-out sessions. OK, hopefully you detect the sarcasm. But some of us here do smoke, and we recognize the romantic notion of puffing away while hunkered down at the bar listening to a rock band. Still, we’re thrilled that non-smoking bars and restaurants like Sapphire, World Grotto and Nama are able to thrive here. And if our fair city does ever ban indoor smoking completely, we’ll see you on the patio.

UT, Where Athletics are Just Games Here’s how we see things going down: Having brought the football Vols to the brink of mediocrity, coach Phillip Fulmer will resign to take over a reverse-rebuilding program at Penn State, which will retire Joe Paterno to set the stage for him. Expect him to take a couple of quarterbacks along to platoon them mercilessly. He’s already been seen shopping for a Nittany Lions visor.

Bruce Pearl, still perspiring from Big Dance fever, will be granted a new contract, promising to acquire for him three top Memphis prospects and a couple of McDonald’s All Americans for every year he agrees to stay beyond the tenures of Wade Houston, Jerry Green or Buzz Peterson.

Pat Summitt, having established a trophy room good for an entry in the Guinness Book, will be poised to go after an eighth national crown with a Lady Vols’ team that will rival the benches of many men’s programs.

Rod Delmonico will get his College World Series championship ring in 2006. He’ll get it at a pawnshop in Omaha and present it to A.D. Mike Hamilton, with his most grateful personal regards.

Track & Field, cross-country and swimming & diving teams will make their marks, not just those black and blue ones, and the women’s volleyball team will spike late and celebrate.

Politics in Periscopic Perspective A county election year usually poses a political jungle to hack through in Knox, but this coming year looks like an open prairie by comparison to past seasons. County Mayor Mike Ragsdale has yet to gain an opponent, but backers of Steve Hall, the anti-tax city councilman, not the incumbent register of deeds, keep prodding him to take on the mayor. He still seems doubtful, but he has another month and a half to pick up and file a petition to give the May primary some excitement at the top. “We’d like to have an opponent,” says Mike Arms, Ragsdale’s chief of staff. He said it over the phone, so it was impossible to tell whether he had a straight face. Ragsdale has the establishment backing and the money to whip up on just about any Democrat contender, come August and the general election.

An inordinate number of County Commission incumbents have no open competition, but there are a few races worth watching. In the 3rdDistrict, the late pol Rex Norman’s son Tony is expected to run (using the name “Rex” Norman) as Sheriff Tim Hutchison’s candidate against Wanda Moody, the sheriff’s nemesis. Larry Stephens isn’t seeking reelection in the 6th District, and a crowd, led by ebullient car dealer Lumpy Lambert, is vying for the open seat. He will likely have four GOP opponents in the primary and one Democrat, Margaret Massey Cox, in the general.

Also in the 6th, Republican school board member Chuck James is considering a run at multi-term incumbent Democrat Mark Cawood, with Ragsdale’s tacit blessing. In the 7th District, that ageless incumbent Mary Lou Horner could face a couple of challenges, including the laboriously campaigning insurance man Larry Smith, who hadn’t petitioned yet by press time, and may not, we hear, and James McMillan, the flood-control freak. In the 8th District, the leader of the “defeat-the-wheel-tax” crew, Gary Sellers, may well take a shot at Johnny Mills in the GOP primary. Other races have yet to shape up, and the remaining incumbents seem safe.

Of the four school board seats up for election, no real races are on the slate, with the possible exception of a challenge for Diane Dozier’s 7thDistrict seat by Rex Stooksbury, the former Central High School principal who had not picked up a petition yet when this was written, but has been angling at it. Robert Bratton could also face a contender in the 9th, where former school board member Jim McClain has obtained a petition, but not filed it by press time.

The judgeships are usually safe for incumbents, and Law Director Mike Moyers is an odds-on bet to fill the seat opening on Chancery Court with Judge Sharon Bell’s pending retirement. Judge Ray Lee Jenkins is thought vulnerable in Criminal Court because of his continuing health issues, but no viable candidate has come forward to challenge him. Judge Brenda Waggoner’s retirement from Sessions Court has attracted a lot of attention, but the Commission has yet to appoint a successor and probably won’t before the May primary, leaving three or four lawyers to struggle over the Republican and Democrat nominations.

Likewise, the law director’s plum post is open to a gaggle of attorneys, but look for it to go to a department insider.

It’s just not much of a fun, blood and guts sort of year in the county for the most part, but if the legally challenged term-limits law is brought to apply to county offices, the next go-round could be a barn-burning in the making.

City politics are headed toward a ho-hum year. Mayor Bill Haslam is in pretty full control of things, with a generally supportive Council. The big items to be resolved include the South Knoxville Waterfront redevelopment project, which could go anywhere, and the conclusion of a mix of downtown, Five Points and other inner-city projects that appear to be on track. We fearlessly predict that Mark Saroff will still be buffaloing the city fathers and all partners and potential partners throughout the year, and that the McClung Warehouses will stay the central city’s principal blight well into 2007.

2006 Arts & Entertainment Crystal Ball Though we can’t peer too far into the future, we’ve spied some stellar shows on the horizon. Here are some of Knoxville’s noteworthy upcoming arts & entertainment events of 2006: • Jan. 14: James Gregory at Tennessee Theatre. The self-proclaimed funniest man in America packs a punch of political incorrectness. • Jan 14: Blowfly at the Pilot Light. The original dirty rapper graces us with his bombastic presence. • Jan. 18: David Copperfield at Civic Auditorium. Handsome, rich and magical man who pulls more than just rabbits out of his hat. • Jan. 20: Ricky Scaggs and Kentucky Thunder at Tennessee Theatre. Bluegrass ambassador pulls some strings. • Jan. 27: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at Tennessee Theatre. Newgrass maestro and his stunning sidekicks yank out all the stops. • Feb. 1: Natti Love Joys at Blue Cats. The Old City venue throws its 4th annual Bob Marley Bash. • Feb. 3: Son Volt at Blue Cats. Jay Farrar gathers the seams of country rock. • Feb. 9: Scott Biram at Pilot Light. Dirty old one-man band promises to be a spectacle. • Feb. 16: Yonder Mountain String Band at Tennessee Theatre. Sprightly bluegrass ensemble puts the cool back in country. • Feb. 17: Tommy Emanuel at Tennessee Theatre. The most underrated guitar genius is finger-pickin’ good. • Feb. 18: Downtown Hoedown feat. Sam Bush, The Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Quartet and The Hackensaw Boys at Tennessee Theatre. The 7th Annual Downtown Hoedown takes the mandolin higher. • February 19: Keith Urban at Thompson Boling Arena. Australian hunk and country tunesmith shows us the love. • February 24: Natti Love Joys at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Atlanta’s best reggae band flails its dreadlocks and its tunes. • Feb. 25: Ron White at Tennessee Theatre. This comedian will tickle your funny bone with stories of public intoxication and nekkid women. • Feb. 26: O.A.R. at Tennessee Theatre. A college band gone good. • March 1: Drums and Tuba at Blue Cats. Funky bunch straight off Ani D.’s record label. • March 4: Chick Corea & Touchstone at Tennessee Theatre. Inventive pianist melds cultural influences. • March 10: The Southern Fried Chicks at Tennessee Theatre. Three female comedians with opposing Southern viewpoints. • March 12: Joshua Bell at Tennessee Theatre. Young Grammy Award-winning violinist takes a bow. • March 13: Nine Inch Nails at Civic Coliseum. Trent Reznor gets the party started. • March 14 & 15: Stomp at Civic Auditorium. Crazy dance antics make family fun for all. • March 15: George Winston at Tennessee Theatre. Melodic folk pianist draws on jazz, blues and pop. • March 17: Here Come The Mummies at Blue Cats. Eight mysterious mummies raise the dead with a dose of funk. • March 25: Sonny Rollins at Tennessee Theatre. Legendary tenor saxophonist plays with the majesty of a Greek God. • March 30: Third Day at Civic Auditorium. Christian rock that stirs the heart. • May 20: Dionne Warwick at Tennessee Theatre. Say a little prayer of thanks that Warwick walks on by Knoxville.

Local iPod fodder The local music scene has been really prolific this year, and it seems like more people are listening to it, too, thanks to the local spinning at 90.3 The Rock, UT’s student radio station. Here are the forthcoming albums we know about that are reported to come out early this year: • Matgo Primo promises us a new album in the spring. The album will feature Ryan Rickels on bass, as recording was completed before he left the band to join Senryu. • Per Capita also expects the release of its first album in the late spring or summer. “It’s a hip-hop project that I produce,” Nathan Tipton says, explaining the act as an “interactive atmosphere of sound.” Composed by three local lyricists—The Illiest, Enigmatic, Wes Rader and produced by Tipton himself (as DJ Simon Belmont), the album is tentatively titled Your Silence Will Not Save You. • Arrison Kirby, founder of El Deth, has a solo album called Part 3 in the works, based on his trip to Nagoya, Nagano and Toyko, Japan. • Kirby’s also producing a project called Ditto Kiddo, with Wil Wright and Lori Maxwell from Senryu. • Just as she’s let go of the CC Stringband part of her name, Robinella will finally let go of the long-awaited Solace for the Lonely Feb. 21 on Dualtone Records. • Also due out in February is a re-release of the American Plague’s God Bless the American Plague, first available last May in a limited edition box set edition. The Plague is most excited about its upcoming split record with Supersuckers, to be released in April on an Italian label. • Vertigo, an alternative rock band out of Morristown, will have And Miles to Go Before We Sleep out this winter. Recorded by producer extraordinaire Travis Wyrick, the release is an exciting one. • Art Vandalay’s Fat Accomplice is set for an early March release. • Scott Miller has plans to release Citation in early 2006 . • Tim Lee’s got April pegged for his album Concrete Dog. • Other artists with albums out in 2006: Chris Scum and The Dirty Works, The High Score, The Rockwells and Nug Jug.

Bonnaroo 2006 We’re thrilled that Bonnaroo officials have decided to reduce ticket sales by 10,000, keeping the crowd down to a more manageable 80,000. We love the festival, but have found the crowds—paired with the blinding heat—too much to take in previous years. We’re pleased to see that they’ve somewhat cleaned up the traffic conundrum and hope that the trend continues. Here’s hoping for another copasetic musical lineup on June 16-18.

Tepid Theatre Acts We’ve loved every sweeping second of the Tennessee’s Theatre’s re-opening this past year. With the Metro Pulse offices just adjacent to the Tennessee’s entrance, we’ve felt the excitement even when we weren’t privy to it. The thing is, we have one tiny gripe, followed by one polite request: Enough with the bluegrass and classical acts already. We know we live in East Tennessee, but bring in the rock ‘n’ roll! Please. If you attract some of our favorite hard livin’ acts, we promise to try not to slosh beer on your new carpet.