Sparta Drive-In to reopen this summer

Posted By | March 28, 2002 12:00 am

Kim Swindell Wood
Drag out the poodle skirts, cashmere sweaters and saddle oxfords and saddle soap those leather jackets because the infamous Sparta Drive-In is making a come-back this summer.
According to Brenda Cardwell, the former high-spot of entertainment in Sparta has been leased by a Spring City couple who will reopen the cinema attraction to provide White Countians with the only drive-in theater in the area. “I believe Dunlap is the closest drive-in to Sparta,” said Cardwell.
Ross and Brenda Cardwell are co-owners of the presently deserted piece of history, but are extremely excited about the plans for refurbishing the structure. “The couple who has leased the property is Perry and Becky Humberd,” said Brenda. “They are an energetic couple who own a drive-in theater in Maryville and Harriman. This work is a passion for them and they hope to begin work immediately.”
Brenda said she and Ross visited the Maryville drive-in last year and had a wonderful time. “It was like stepping back in time,” she said. “The theme is the 1950’s and everything reminded me of those wonderful times. They are planning to remodel this drive-in in the same 50’s style.”
Perry Humberd and his wife, Becky, are passionate about the drive-in nostalgia. “We opened our first drive-in in Harriman about seven years ago,” he said. “I was raised in Chattanooga and watched all five of the drive-ins close. I always felt there was place for the drive-in and I guess that was my goal.”
Humberd said people just need a good place to “hang out” sometimes, and the Sparta Drive-In will be a great place to bring the family. “I want Sparta to know the drive-in will be a family atmosphere,” he said. “There will, of course, be some R-rated movies, because there are some good ones out there.”
According to Humberd, he and his wife opened the Midtown Drive-In in Harriman in 1995 and reopened the Parkway Drive-in in Maryville in June 1999. “I found the Sparta Drive-In in 1997 and didn’t really pursue it at that time,” he said. “Later on, we contacted the owners and everything just seemed to click.”
The Cardwells have been working on the leasing for approximately one year, but it was finalized on Tuesday. “We have had numerous people throughout the years who expressed an interest in the drive-in, but didn’t have the experience of the Humberds,” said Brenda. “They are excited and so are we.”
The drive-in will also have a great concession, which will provide a wide variety of food. “You won’t have to go to a restaurant before you come to the drive-in,” said Humberd. “You can if you want to, but we will have all the food you will need.”
According to Humberd, an assessment crew will be in Sparta on Friday to evaluate the refurbishing project. “I think it will approximately six to eight weeks to complete the restructuring after it begins,” he said. “I am judging this from past experience. I am looking to May for the tentative date for opening.”
Humberd said he plans for a grand opening approximately one month after opening. “You have to give yourself time to make sure everything works out okay,” he said.
Brenda said she is proud of the business transaction, since it will provide a venue for drawing visitors to White County and help the county to prosper. “Everyone should have the drive-in experience,” said Brenda. “Ross and I just threw a blanket on the ground when we went to the Maryville drive-in and acted like two teenagers. It was wonderful.”

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