He’s been in business for more than 35 East Tennessee springs, so River Sports Outfitters owner Ed McAlister knows his way around our unpredictable weather.
“If there’s lots of rain, The Climbing Center is busy. If it’s not raining, the boaters are out,” McAlister says.
McAlister serves them, and the backpackers and the bicyclists, the fishermen and the kayakers, from River Sports’ original location at 2918 Sutherland Ave. and its West Knoxville location at 9292 Kingston Pike in Cedar Bluff.
On weekends from April 27 until Memorial Day, River Sports will rent watercraft and bicycles at The Cove at Concord Park. Then the concession will go to seven days a week for the summer. They have a similar rental program at Ijams in South Knoxville. There are other River Sports rental locations at parks and waterfronts in Morristown and Lenoir City.
McAlister says it will be a fun late spring and summer at The Cove, where they will also rent hammocks and gear for picnickers and other visitors. At The Cove, they will offer paddleboard instruction, fishing kayak demos and other water activities as well as regularly scheduled kids’ bike rides. McAlister says whole families rent bikes together now, more than in decades past, to take advantage of our greenways, including the one that loops near The Cove.
On the first Tuesday of every month, the Sutherland Avenue location hosts a popular pint night to benefit a charity. There is also a ladies-only climbing night at The Climbing Center on the first Monday of every month.
“It will be a beehive of activity,” McAlister says of the coming months.
McAlister originally opened the Sutherland location in 1984, in the 900-square-foot building that now houses Third Creek Coffee. Before that, he ran the business for two years from his house, trading, buying and selling gear he couldn’t find here.
Originally from Northwest Tennessee, he came to Knoxville to study engineering. He was decidedly not an outdoors person, but his first outings changed him, he says. Now he wants to spread the news.
“Every trip I do, I learn something,” he says. “The outdoors will do wonders for you.”