Knoxville (WVLT) – Friday evening, Bearden High School graduated its class of 2007, with all the pomp, but under crowded circumstances.
The Knoxville Convention Center’s Main Hall seats about 8,000 people.
But Bearden is one of almost a dozen high schools holding commencement exercises here over four days, 3 schools Friday alone.
Many of those commencements are at night.
But how could downtown handle the extra crowds a graduation brings during business hours?
Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd went in search of some answers that may settle some questions about how Downtown accommodates convention visitors and tourists.
Always seems to come back to parking, doesn't it?
Whether downtown has enough of it, where it needs it, whether those who need it, know how to find it.
“They say there's gonna be 3000 walking across the floor today, that's gonna be a lot of cars to park.” So many, the Holiday Inn waves most folks past the attendant, to pay on down the driveway, rather than bottleneck cars at Henley and Clinch.
“I'm sure there are a lot of people up in the air, they either came early and or will be struggling and coming late,” says Rick Glover, dad of Bearden Grad.
Meet Dale Youngblood. “Fumbling and stumbling. I had no idea where to go. I followed the signs, I let mom and daughter off,” Dale says. “Sister, she just come in, she had nowhere to go.
And remember, most of the folks here today are from here. Imagine the questions coming from folks the Convention Center was built to attract.
“To my knowledge, we've never lost a group because of parking,” says Linda Milan from the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation. “I think the lacking is in the knowledge of it.”
Tourism and Sports Corporation’s Linda Milan says parking is about halfway down the Top Ten questions she gets from groups considering Knoxville or the Convention Center. “With the free trolley service and the convenience of the Downtown hotels within walking distance of the Convention Center, the majority of attendants are not gonna have to move their vehicles.”
Those who do, will find garages at Market Square and Locust Street.
But Dale finds Locust street’s, “Packed! It was, really! When I come onto the third level, there was one open I grabbed it as quick as possible.”
“I'm not sure what you can ever do, to alleviate parking on a Friday afternoon, at noon,” says Rick.
“Dry run it, that's what I do,” says Linda.
Better to scout out parking, before the big day, “versus trying to figure out a parking spot and ending up being late for your event,” Linda syas.
Which Dale's graduating niece, is.
“I see I'm not the only one, so it makes me feel a little better,” Kim Sanders says as she heads to the Convention Center.
Southern hospitality goes a long way too.
Lots of folks downtown for graduation tell wvlt they had no trouble getting help when they asked for directions.
Some of the help comes the Knoxville Tourism And Sports Corporation, which will give you parking advice if you call 1 (800) 737-8045 during weekday business hours.
The toughest question to answer: just how many parking spaces does downtown have for travel, business and tourism?
Nobody could give us firm numbers.