Chilhowee Park Strategic Plan Available Online

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
[email protected]
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Chilhowee Park Strategic Plan Available Online

Posted: 10/18/2019
A team of consultants has completed its nine-month analysis of Chilhowee Park and Exposition Center’s current condition and potential long-term uses. 

Remedying flooding issues needs to be one of the first orders of business, the group concluded. Future Mayors and City Councils minimally will need to continue to invest in maintenance and near-future upgrades totaling $3.5 million, some of which is currently budgeted.

Overview image from CPEC planAfter that, Chilhowee Park promisingly stands at a crossroads. Major City investments over time could transform the 81-acre park into a more robust space that would be frequently used year-round by families in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as visitors coming for festivals, trade shows and concerts, the consultants concluded.

Incrementally, the City could add a new state-of-the-art amphitheater able to accommodate between 7,500 and 10,000 guests (a venue size now missing in the Knoxville market), a new 91,800-square-foot multi-use facility, and a parking deck, according to the consultants’ report, shared at a public meeting Wednesday, Oct. 16, at the Jacob Building.

The consulting team headed by Convention  Sports and Leisure International (CSL) also presented a long-range vision for the park that vastly increases green space and triples the size of Lake Ottosee, restoring it to a natural environment similar to how the park looked at the time of the 1910 and 1911 Appalachian Expositions. The vision includes options for families to boat, kayak or canoe on what could be a 9-acre lake.

Additionally, the consultants presented options for adding restaurants, retail and housing in select parts of the park and along Magnolia Avenue. What’s now the Midway, for example, could be remade into mixed-use development and houses. The public investments would be a catalyst for private economic development, according to the consultants.

“This study confirmed that parts of Chilhowee Park are showing their age and often can’t competitively attract certain events when compared with more modern facilities,” said Chip Barry, Deputy Chief of Operations. “That said, this analysis also confirmed much of what we already knew – that Knoxville residents greatly value the park, want to see it made greener, and want more year-round activity.”

To see Wednesday night’s PowerPoint presentation or read the complete 97-page strategic plan, visit

Feedback may be emailed to [email protected].

There is no funding committed to any aspects of the recommended plan, other than short-term maintenance. While the total cost to do everything outlined in the plan is estimated at $81.5 million or more, Barry noted that the plan is an “aspirational” blueprint; components could be added incrementally, over many years.

The consulting team was led by nationally renowned Convention Sports and Leisure International (CSL). The team included local firms Design Innovation Architects and IBI Placemaking (formerly CRJA Landscape Architects) as well as Sizemore Group, Atlanta-based strategic planners.

To reach its conclusions, the team in February met with tenants and stakeholders and held a community meeting. The consultants thoroughly compared Chilhowee Park to peer local and regional facilities, as well as to 23 comparable parks and amphitheaters across the country. Historic uses of the Chilhowee buildings and grounds were studied. More than 2,000 people then completed online surveys in June.

The consultants praised ASM Global, formerly SMG, for making significant improvements in managing the park since taking over operations in November 2015.

Chilhowee Park and Exposition Center serves as home to the Tennessee Valley Fair each fall and to The Muse and Golden Gloves Charities year-round. Adjacent to Chilhowee Park is the 53-acre Zoo Knoxville, the city’s top attraction. 

Because the strategic plan calls for reconfiguring the park grounds, it suggests the City should assist the fair in relocating to larger and improved space. Golden Gloves could potentially relocate to the proposed new multi-use facility, while the Muse might be a good fit for the current Jacob Building, according to the strategic plan.

The consultants recommend solving the flooding issue as a prerequisite to any other major investment.

“Importantly, detailed investigation of the stormwater/flooding problems impacting the site and watershed is needed,” the plan states. “Implementation of a comprehensive solution to appropriately mitigate the core issues causing flooding at Chilhowee Park will be necessary before investment is made on a major improvement project.”