In the aftermath of a land acquisition in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee Smokies (Class AA; Southern League) owner Randy Boyd says that no new ballpark talks are on the table.
Boyd, who owns the Smokies under Boyd Sports LLC, has purchased seven acres of property in downtown Knoxville from Knox Rail Salvage. This caused some discussion locally about whether Boyd was buying the property to jumpstart an effort to replace Smokies Park in Sevier County.
Smokies Park opened in 2000 and represented a change of scenery for the Smokies, who had previously played at Bill Meyer Stadium in Knoxville. The prospect of the team’s return to the city’s limits generated some buzz locally, but Boyd insists that the Smokies are not in talks to replace Smokies Park at this point. That statement was backed up by Sevier County officials, who cited the team’s lease at Smokies Park as a sticking point. More from the Knoxville News Sentinel:
“Eventually, whether the Knox Rail Salvage site becomes a new commercial or residential development, a public park for Old City residents and pet lovers, or a new sports complex, I hope it will be a terrific new addition to Knoxville and the Old City,” Boyd said.
Last week, the Sevier County Economic Development Council, on behalf of the city and county governments, released a statement that the council expects the team to remain in Sevierville until the lease ends in 2025.
A broken lease would cost Boyd approximately $10 million, which is the remaining stadium construction costs owed by the city and county. Boyd would also be responsible for the $300,000 rent for the remaining years on the lease, according to the stadium lease agreement.
The lease with the Smokies baseball team ends March 15, 2025.
“We take Randy Boyd at his word, that he does not have any definite plans for the Knox Rail Salvage property,” the council’s statement said. “He has stated publicly when he purchased the Tennessee Smokies that he intended to fulfill the lease in Sevierville and Sevier County with the AA Tennessee Smokies. … As we stated to Mr. Boyd, we expect him to live up to the terms of the lease, which expires at the end of the 2025 season.”
In many cases it can take years to line up a new ballpark, and it makes sense for Boyd and the Smokies to keep their options open. Smokies Park has been upgraded in recent years, however, to include outfield seating, a wraparound concourse, and other upgrades. Upon a 2015 visit, we gave the ballpark a very high recommendation.