Knoxville can follow Greenville Drive path

The construction of a new stadium transformed the center city of Greenville, South Carolina.

If Knoxville’s stadium trajectory follows the same path as Greenville, South Carolina – early signs indicate just that – the city center will undergo a transformation.

“This has exceeded everybody’s expectations, in terms of growth and development,” said Jeff Brown, president of the Greenville Drive team, a Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. “Everyone wants to work together and see everyone succeed.” 

Brown was quoted in a WBIR Channel 10 report that can be read HERE and outlines the parallels between Greenville and Knoxville.

The broadcast video also can be watched below.

Nearly 20 years ago, the site of what would become Fluor Field was a blighted area with no reason for residents or visitors to venture to the west end of downtown Greenville. The construction of the stadium sparked a transformation that has catapulted downtown Greenville to a destination location, an outcome driven by, as it were, the Greenville Drive.

Stadium construction in Greenville was underway in 2006 at a cost of $20 million. By comparison, the Tennessee Smokies’ current stadium in Kodak in Sevier County cost $19.4 million in 2000.

Knoxville’s stadium in 2023 has an estimated cost of $114 million – a detailed breakdown can be read HERE – a figure that reflects the passage of nearly a quarter of a century, a pandemic and a global supply chain crisis following an earlier estimate of $80 million. Included in that figure is a $13 million payment from Boyd Sports founder Randy Boyd and a loan from Boyd up to $20 million. It also is possible that the final cost could come under $114 million.

On May 25, the City of Knoxville and Knox County issued a joint news release about the issuance of $65 million in bonds to fund the stadium.

The release stated: The $114 million Knoxville- and Knox County-owned multi-use stadium, to be built in East Knoxville, just east of the Old City, has hit a major milestone this week and is moving forward – on schedule and within budget.

The Knoxville-Knox County Sports Authority’s financing team, led by J.P. Morgan, went to the bond market Wednesday. Agreements were reached with buyers, pending final closure in June, to purchase $65 million in publicly-backed bonds to construct the stadium. The 30-year bond issue achieved a true interest cost (TIC) of 5 percent.

“We negotiated a successful sale, which was completed today,” Sports Authority Treasurer Richard Bass said. “One benefit to going to the market when we did was to mitigate the risk of increasing interest rates. Both the City and the County have strong credit ratings, which we believe attracted buyers and allowed the financing to be accomplished.” 

Meanwhile, Randy and Jenny Boyd shared recent photos at the worksite for a new Knoxville stadium that included a marker for home plate. Randy Boyd wrote on social media: “It’s getting real.”

Construction can now begin in earnest and what is currently cleared land and assorted large piles of dirt will transform within the next two years into a baseball and multi-use stadium that will host the Knoxville Smokies, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, in the 2025 season.

The Smokies last played in Knoxville more than 20 years ago at the now defunct Bill Meyer Stadium, which is about a mile from the new site.

An official groundbreaking will be held in June to formally kick off construction. Get your popcorn ready. Baseball is indeed coming back to Knoxville.

Maria Cornelius, a writer/editor for Moxley Carmichael, is a lifelong baseball fan and longtime Smokies season ticket holder.