Smokies new ballpark plans move forward

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Tennessee Knoxville Ballpark update Nov 2021 Image: Knoxville Sports Authority

A new Knoxville ballpark for the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team Tennessee Smokies (US) (Double-A South) took another step forward in the regulatory process, with the Knoxville Knox County Sports Authority approving $65 million in bonding.

The ‘Ballpark Digest’ stated that the Sports Authority represents the City of Knoxville and Knox County (US) in the process and will technically own the ballpark and overseeing a lease to the Smokies. Their approval of the $65 million in bonding paves the way for the Knox County Commission and the Knoxville City Council to issue similar approvals in upcoming votes.

The Tennessee Smokies are a Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team based in the Knoxville, Tennessee (US), metropolitan area. The team, which plays in the Double-A South, is the Double-A affiliate of the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Chicago Cubs. Smokies Stadium, the team’s ballpark, is located in the suburb of Kodak, and seats up to 8,000 fans.

The Smokies Stadium is a baseball stadium located in Sevierville, Tennessee, just East of Knoxville and adjacent to the tourist centers of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. The park, which opened in the year 2000, is the home of the Tennessee Smokies of the Double-A South.

The ballpark is expected to open for the 2023 season:

  • The ballpark would be the centerpiece of a massive development on a property that already belongs to Double-A Tennessee Smokies baseball team owner and the University of Tennessee System President Randy Boyd; and
  • He has promised to bring at least $142 million in private money to build 630,000 square feet of restaurants, retail shops and residences around the stadium if Knoxville and the Knox County agree to finance a publicly-owned stadium. The plans now include a 22,000-square-foot space that could, conceivably, become a grocery store.

The ‘Ballpark Digest’ further stated that the financial plan calls for service on the bonds to be $3.2 million per year. The Smokies will pay $1 million in annual rent and approximately $750,000 in payments in lieu of taxes. The remaining annual debt at $480,000 is expected to be addressed by sales-tax proceeds at the ballpark and the surrounding development. The City and county will put up the $480,000 as the development ramps up, with the sales-tax revenue projected to turn a profit in coming years.

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