Big week for new stadium; big week ahead

Rendering of plaza outside of stadium

The push for approval of a new multi-use stadium went 2-2 at the plate this week – and looks to do the same next week to bat a thousand.

The Sports Authority and the Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission, in separate meetings, both granted unanimous approval this week to move ahead with the $80.1 million overall project.

The Sports Authority voted first on Nov. 10 to oversee construction of the 7,000-seat multi-purpose stadium and issue $65 million in revenue bonds to pay for the bulk of it. Later that day, the Planning Commission approved the project’s final development plan, which allows for street closures and other improvements at the stadium site in East Knoxville on the edge of the Old City.

More than $100 million in private development also is connected to the project, which will transform a neglected area that has severed East Knoxville from downtown to a thriving community of residential, retail, hotel and restaurant establishments.

In case anyone has forgotten, here’s what the site looked like less than a year ago.

Here’s what it looks like after project leader Randy Boyd had the blight and abandoned meatpacking plant cleared.

And here’s what it could be.

For those who like the nitty gritty, the “inside baseball” as it were, from street changes to light poles to landscape details, that full 162-page development plan can be read HERE.

A $13.5 million state grant and nearly $6 million in funding from Boyd will complete the financing. The Tennessee Smokies baseball team, whose parent company is Boyd Sports, would become the primary tenant and the stadium would host other sports such as soccer, concerts, farmers’ markets, corporate gatherings and community events year-round.

The Smokies would pay $1 million a year in rent under a lease agreement that will have to be finalized and approved at a later date. 

As always, the Compass provided outstanding coverage of the details in a story that can be read HERE.

So what happens next week? Knox County Commission meets Nov. 15 to vote on approval to move forward with the project. Knoxville City Council will do the same on Nov. 16. The stadium project will need to go 2-2 again.

Is it time to get excited? The project is definitely moving around the bases.

Although the “interlocal agreement” approved by the Sports Authority, as the Compass reported, “would allow the Sports Authority to issue revenue bonds, as a practical matter that won’t happen until other agreements are in place to guarantee the revenue streams that would go toward servicing the debt.”

Is it time to bring baseball back to Knoxville? The unequivocal answer always has been and remains yes.