Stadium funding takes big step forward

The view from left field at the new stadium.

The particulars of the funding for a new stadium has made a move towards home plate – in baseball parlance – after the City of Knoxville, Knox County and Smokies Baseball team owner Randy Boyd reached an agreement in principle.

Scott Barker of The Compass does an excellent job of outlining the particulars in a story that can be read HERE.

Essentially, Boyd will finance a construction loan, and the special tax-increment financing (TIF) district will expand to cover long-term costs. The city and county announced the outlines of the plan in an interview with the Compass that was published Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

As The Compass pointed out: Officials emphasized that the city and county’s upfront costs will remain the same and that Boyd is assuming much of the risk involved in the new arrangement. The total cost of the stadium remains to be determined.

The financing became an issue because of ongoing economic uncertainty and rising construction costs in a post that can be read HERE that also included new stadium renderings.

Last week, the News Sentinel’s Ryan Wilusz took a field trip to Durham, North Carolina, to catch some Minor League Baseball action in Triple-A with the Durham Bulls. (For non-sports fans, that’s the next level past Double-A, which is the level the Tennessee Smokies play at in the Southern League as an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The Triple-A team for the Cubs is in Des Moines, Iowa.)

While Wilusz was in Durham, he made some astute observations between the Bulls’ stadium and the new stadium to come in Knoxville in a story that can be read HERE.

As Wilusz pointed out in his Aug. 4 column: While the price tag for the Smokies stadium is still uncertain, there are reasons to be hopeful rising costs won’t stop baseball from coming to downtown K

For one, Randy Boyd is the man in charge. The Tennessee dignitary loves baseball, he loves the Old City … and his pockets are deep. I’m not saying this is a passion project for Boyd, but it certainly will be a legacy project – the type of project any developer would not want to see fail. 

Meanwhile, the Compass’ story provides details of how the financing could unfold. A year ago, the estimated cost for construction was $80.1 million with Boyd responsible for cost overruns. (Of course, since construction has yet to be approved by the Knoxville-Knox County Sports Authority – it needs the final cost to move forward – no overruns have occurred yet.)

But with rising interest rates, supply chain disruptions and escalating prices, especially for iron, that final cost has been in flux and exceeds the $80.1 million initial estimate. The agreement in principle among Boyd, the city and the county means the project has made a significant step forward to be able to present a final cost to the sports authority.

The Compass story also pointed out: During a joint interview, Knoxville Economic and Community Development Officer Stephanie Welch and Knox County Chief Financial Officer Chris Caldwell said Boyd is committed to keeping the project viable.

“Mr. Boyd has stepped up to say, ‘Yes, if there’s a gap, I will front those dollars, I’ll take the risk I won’t get repaid for that,’ ” Welch said.

Because the TIF district changes and a new cost affects the interlocal agreement, County Commission, City Council and the Sports Authority must approve the new parameters. County Commission has a work session Aug. 15, followed by an Aug. 22 meeting to discuss the changes. The Sports Authority and City Council both have meetings scheduled for Aug. 23.

In the meantime, four streets lining the perimeter of the stadium site have been closed. Knoxville Utilities Board crews already took on the project of relocating water and sewer lines. Site preparation and rough grading was underway Monday, and that video can be seen on our Twitter account.

Getting a new stadium is a journey as so many pieces have to come together. It’s a journey worth taking to restore baseball in Knoxville.