Diverse panel touts upside of new stadium

A panel presented by the Beck Cultural Exchange Center examined the history of the proposed site for a multi-use stadium on the edge of the Old City and unanimously agreed that the development project should move forward in East Knoxville.

Rev. Reneé Kesler, president of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, moderated the panel, which consisted of two former Knoxville mayors in Daniel Brown and Randy Tyree; civil rights leader and historian Robert Booker; historian Jack Neely; and retired schoolteacher Geraldine Taylor.

The panel discussed the history of “The Bottom,” which is where a new stadium would be located in what is now a blighted area, and the urban renewal project gone awry in the 1960s and 1970s. A full account of the panel in a story by Rick Held for Hard Knox Wire can be read HERE.

An except from the story states: “There were definitely blighted properties that required attention, such as shacks with no plumbing and blocks near First Creek that were prone to flooding,” Taylor recalled of the areas that were targeted. “Yet the area also had solid housing stock such as my family’s home.”

She also described clusters of thriving businesses and churches that the program indiscriminately razed, along with the interdependent relationships that built and strengthened the community that Taylor grew up in.

Everyone still knew each other in the projects but the sense of community as we knew it — having the means to look out for each other — was gone,” said Taylor.

The panelists agreed that the proposed publicly owned, multi-use stadium and surrounding private development by GEM Community Development Group would be beneficial for the long-neglected area and, according to the story, show “how the racial history of Knoxville baseball can be an inspiration for reconciliation and restoration.”

The development also includes outreach to the Black community in terms of construction and other jobs, civic improvement and the promise to prominently feature the history of Knoxville baseball.

What happened 60-plus years ago can’t be undone. But the city can move forward. It’s time to bring baseball back to Knoxville.