Customers walking into the new First Tennessee branch on Cumberland Avenue Thursday were surely surprised to see the dignitaries there to officially open the University of Tennessee financial center.
Packed into the lobby were Bob Kesling, the Voice of the Vols; former coach and current AD Phillip Fulmer; Knox County Commissioner Evelyn Gill; Rhonda Rice and Mark Field from the Knoxville Chamber; Bill Lyons, Anne Wallace and Eric Vreeland from the city; and bank executives from downtown.
Mayor Madeline Rogero and Dave Miller, president of First Tennessee for the East Tennessee Region, spoke first and then cut the ribbon.
Meanwhile, the customers kept arriving. “Come on in,” said Rogero to a slightly puzzled woman.
Miller smiled and held the door. He said later, “with so much business moving online, banks aren’t opening a lot of branches. But customers like to walk in and talk with someone they know. We can print a UT-logo debit card here while the customer waits. You can’t do that online.”
Josh Ward was broadcasting on-site. Steve Early and Brandon Parks from the Vol Network sported game day attire. Branch staff includes Charly Dena, manager; Debbie Human and Tina Jones, financial services representatives; and MaryBeth Cox, senior teller. Hours are weekdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Want to see the new branch? Stop by the tailgate today (10/19) for hot dogs, chips, drinks and more. The décor is futuristic with an orange aura enveloping the lobby area and offices. A giant mural of Ayres Hall dominates one wall. There are world-class security and technology features, Miller said, including “day-glow at night on the ATM.”
Jennifer Holder said the day was very special for First Tennessee. “The original bank branch was part of Hamilton National Bank formed in the 1930s. It became part of First Tennessee in 1983.”
That building was demolished to make way for the TENN building, a six-story development on Cumberland Avenue between 18th and 19th streets. The structure includes retail and commercial tenants as well as residential units and an on-site parking garage. First Tennessee is a ground-floor anchor.
“We’re celebrating a place where great people work,” said Miller. “And we are proud to be the Official Bank of the Vols. We are proud to serve the University with banking services and through significant support of scholarships for the dependents of First Tennessee employees and others, including an endowment for the First Tennessee Foundation Professorship in the Haslam College of Business.”
Rogero, project manager Anne Wallace and deputy mayor Bill Lyons beamed. Rogero said the city invested $25 million to revitalize the Cumberland Corridor, to add wide sidewalks and landscaping while reducing traffic from four lanes to just two. She said traffic now flows along Cumberland Avenue more safely and consistently. And that $25 million has leveraged more than $190 million in private investment, she said. “Cumberland Avenue has become reinvigorated as a go-to destination.”