Entrepreneur Randy Boyd wants to move the minor league Smokies baseball team to downtown Knoxville. A stadium will be built to accommodate the team and other activities.
Knoxville, Tenn. — $65 million? $80 million? $100 million?
The proposed multi-purpose stadium to the east of the Old Town and James White Promenade has raised many questions, including how much it will cost, when it will be built, who will pay and who will benefit from the project.
As the city, county, local sports authority and contractor Randy Boyd move forward with the project, WBIR wants to provide a central source for all your questions about it.
Here we hope to answer the biggest questions you may have.
We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.
What is the estimated cost of the stadium?
To date, the alleged cost is around $100 million. Early estimates started at around $65 million. Construction material costs have been rising over the past year or so, making it difficult to determine exactly what the real price will be, according to project planners.
Look for more precise numbers by the end of 2022, according to Tennessee Smokies managers, as they prepare a maximum price estimate.
A city-county sports authority has been created to oversee the financing, construction and management of the building, which is expected to include 7,000 seats for fans. The authority has signed a “turnkey” agreement with Boyd Sports which allows Boyd to build the stadium.
Fans say the baseball team will use it for home games, about 70 per season. Local football team One Knoxville is also expected to call him home, possibly for 16-18 games.
Plus, it will be available for things like concerts and community events and space to rent. Some have suggested that University of Tennessee baseball could also use him for at least a few games.
City and county leaders have stressed they want it used as much as possible. The public will be able to use part of its space daily for recreational purposes, probably from dawn to dusk.
What is the current likely construction schedule?
The goal is to begin construction in early 2023, have it ready for some events in 2024, and have it ready for baseball games in April 2025. Early work on the site began in the summer of 2022.
How will this be paid?
There will be several sources of money. The state provided $13.5 million as a grant. Sales tax revenue collected for sales inside the stadium during operations will be another source of revenue.
Boyd’s team will also pay an annual lease of $1 million.
Revenue generated from a fundraising district around the stadium should also capture money that can be used to cover costs. New private developments are expected to increase property values, creating new taxes.
The city and county should also share some costs, using non-property tax sources, they say.
The sporting authority will issue bonds – borrowing money with the promise of paying interest to investors – to raise the money needed to pay for construction. The sports authority board has been working on the initial planning for more than a year.
What is Randy Boyd paying for?
Boyd paid for the plots of land on which the stadium will be built. He will release this to the public in the future. It will not retain ownership of the stadium site.
It will also pay annual rent to help defray the construction costs of the stadium.
He’s also willing to loan up to $20 million to cover a construction budget variance from what everyone thought the project would cost. He does it because he wants the project to go ahead.
Boyd also leads a private development team that plans to invest more than $100 million in residential and commercial projects around the stadium itself. At least four buildings are envisaged.
Knoxville once had a minor league baseball club for decades. In 2000 the team moved to Sevier County.
Boyd wants to bring the Smokies back to Knoxville.
How much taxpayers’ money would he spend on it?
In June 2022, it was estimated that the city and county would spend no more than $800,000 each per year. Their shares could decrease over the years.
Both have pledged not to use property tax revenue to cover their share.
So, for example, Knox County will use tax money collected through the hotel-motel tax to cover its share.
What is the role of the sports department of the city-department in all this?
The sports authority, made up of a group of men and women appointed by the city and county mayors, will have decision-making power over the funding, construction and management of the venue.
Who supported this project and what did they say?
City and county staff and city and county mayors are supportive. They traveled to Fort Wayne, Ind., and Columbia, SC, to see other minor league stadiums that have been offered as success stories.
Many council members, commissioners and business leaders approve of it.
Who opposed it and what did they say?
Some community activists and a few members of the Knoxville City Council have raised questions and objections about the project. A common refrain: the project should have a community benefits agreement that explains how the project will help residents in general and not just developers.
How can the public express themselves on this project?
The office of the sports authority meets monthly. They have a public forum at every meeting. You can find out when their next meeting is here.
In addition, the Knoxville City Council and the Knox County Commission handle matters related to the stadium project. Their meetings are public and they save time for the public to address them.