Smokies $114 million home to be ready by 2025


Tennessee Smokies new stadium ground breaking Image: GEM Associated Architects

Starting in 2025, the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team Tennessee Smokies will have a new $114 million home in East Knoxville in Knoxville, Tennessee, US.

‘TENNESSEE Conservative’ stated that after a $65 million publicly-backed bond sale in late May, the team held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site in the earlier part of June to discuss the 7,000-seat stadium, touting numbers from the Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, which claim the stadium will have a positive economic impact for the Knoxville residents.

Florida (US)-based the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) is professional baseball below Major League Baseball (MLB), including teams affiliated with the MLB clubs and independent baseball leagues consisting of unaffiliated teams.

New York (US)-based Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization. One of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, the MLB comprises 30 teams, divided equally between the National League (NL) and the American League (AL), with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

The Tennessee Smokies are a Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team based in Kodak, Tennessee, a suburb of Knoxville, US. The team, which plays in the Southern League, is the Double-A affiliate of the MLB team Chicago Cubs. They play at the Smokies Stadium.

The Smokies Stadium is a baseball stadium located in Kodak, Tennessee, just North of Sevierville and East of Knoxville (US), adjacent to the tourist centers of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The park, which opened in 2000, has a capacity of 6,412. It is the home of the MiLB team Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League.

Minneapolis, Minnesota (US)-based the Conventions, Sports and Leisure International (CSL) is a leading advisory and planning firm specializing in providing consulting services to the convention, sport, entertainment, and visitor industries. The CSL was established for the specific purpose of providing a source of focused research and expertise in these industries. Services include new/expanded event facility feasibility studies, organizational reviews/performance enhancement studies, destination master planning, industry benchmarking, negotiation assistance, and related services.

‘TENNESSEE Conservative’ further stated that the CSL, a marketing company co-owned by the MLB team New York Yankees and the National Football League (NFL) team Dallas Cowboys, produces numbers for stadium projects across the United States as they look for public funding, including the NFL team Tennessee Titans, the 15,000-capacity Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (car racing track in Nashville, Tennessee), the proposed National Hockey League (NHL) team Arizona Coyotes’ complex in Tempe, Arizona, that failed a public referendum, and the new proposed Las Vegas stadium for the MLB team Oakland Athletics.

J.C. Bradbury, an economist who has studied stadium projects across the United States, had strong words about the Knoxville stadium and the Las Vegas estimates – “It’s time to stop merely disputing what paid economic consultants are presenting as being incorrect. This conduct should be called out as completely unethical and morally reprehensible.”

The Knoxville stadium will be officially owned by the new Knoxville Sports Authority, a joint venture of the City and the Knox County. But the Smokies owner Randy Boyd, President of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (Tennessee’s flagship university and premier public research institution) and a 2018 candidate for Governor, will own the surrounding development. Boyd bought the Chicago Cubs affiliate in 2013.

The Smokies moved to Kodak, Tennessee, in 2000, and will return to Knoxville in 2025.

In 2021, the State of Tennessee approved the creation of a tax capture that will allow sales tax revenue from the stadium and the area within a quarter-mile radius to remain at the stadium to pay off the public bonds.

The estimated $142 million mixed-use development surrounding the stadium will include 630,000 square feet of residential space, restaurants and retail in the ballpark vicinity. When the State Bill was passed, a $100 million private investment in the project was a requirement for the tax capture to be created.

While the CSL and the project leaders have touted the new spending and impact of the project, economists such as Bradbury have shown that professional sports stadiums do not produce the promised economic impact and instead rely on diverted spending in a region.

That means that a person who previously spent money at a restaurant or other Knoxville entertainment options – paying sales tax that goes to the State, City and the county – would now instead spend money in the new district, where the sales tax goes back to pay for stadium construction at a cost to taxpayers overall.

Sales tax is Tennessee’s largest funding source, with $1.16 billion of the $1.6 billion collected overall in May coming from sales tax.

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