On the second Thursday of every month from 9 to 10 a.m., I've been on the air with Jeff Styles, Jim Reynolds and Bill Lockhart talking about the local entertainment scene. It's part of a partnership the paper has with the folks at WGOW-FM 102.3, where reporters and editors from here visit with them to talk about a variety of topics including politics, entertainment and current events.
I was on last week and two ideas were floated that have intrigued me for some time. The first: Since Chattanooga is such a tourist-dependent town, should a major disaster like those that have befallen Texas, Florida and Gatlinburg happen here, what industry would we have to help us rebuild? Do we have a Plan B?
The second: Have we as a city matured enough to be considered big-time? If not, when will we know that we have? Assuming, of course, we do. I'll explain in a bit.
The first was posed by Styles, who pointed out that tourists have not yet returned to Gatlinburg as hoped. My response was that because what attracts people to Chattanooga is, in part, spread out and diverse and largely based on the outdoor things we have to offer like hiking, biking, skydiving and water-related sports, you'd like to think those things would still be attractive. But, he is right. Should downtown take a major hit, what would bring people back?
I'm also not sure how a city or region can have a Plan B. If it was a good plan, you'd like to think it was already being done.
As to the second question and how we define "reached the big-time," I would ask these questions: A) Have we reached the point where we are willing to pay premium prices for a Broadway show or a live music concert? B) Do we still think all downtown parking should be free and that we should always be able to find a spot within 10, 20 or 50 feet of the front door or gate? C) If we see a celebrity of any level walking through the Tennessee Aquarium or eating in a restaurant, do we suddenly start acting like the front row at a Justin Bieber concert?
I would answer: A) Yes, but we do love us some free music. B) Yes, we think having to park and walk more than three blocks is outrageous and that it is the fault of some politician somewhere. C) Sadly, yes.
So, I guess we can conclude that we are not yet Nashville or Atlanta. But honestly, who wants to be either of those cities?
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.