Though a development is years away, the Tennessee Smokies (Class AA; Southern League) and the City of Knoxville have discussed a new ballpark, according to recently uncovered emails.
After owner Randy Boyd acquired roughly seven acres of land in downtown Knoxville, reports began to surface that the property would be used for a new ballpark. Boyd, however, said in a recent statement that there are no imminent plans to build a new facility. The team currently plays at Smokies Park in Sevier County, where officials said that they believe that the team will honor a lease that concludes in March 2025.
Emails between the city and Boyd offer a glimpse into what the Smokies might be planning. The two sides have discussed the possibility of a downtown ballpark going back to 2014, but those talks have never gotten to the point of creating a firm proposal. In a correspondence from February, Boyd said that because of the clauses and penalties in the lease for Smokies Park, he would like to hold off on planning a new ballpark. More from the Knoxville News Sentinel:
“My current plan is to wait to the last year or two so my penalty is minimal,” Boyd wrote in a February email to Christi Branscom, deputy to Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. “On the other hand, I might be able to negotiate a better longer-term win-win with Sevier/Sevierville. I can share some ideas on that then too.”
According to the lease agreement between the Smokies, Sevierville and Sevier County, a broken lease would cost Boyd approximately $10 million, which amounts to the remaining stadium construction costs owed by the city and county. The lease with the Smokies baseball team ends March 15, 2025.
According to the stadium use lease agreement, Boyd also would be liable for the $300,000 rent for the remaining years on the lease.
Late Wednesday night Boyd responded to requests for comment. “Our statement Saturday said everything I can think there is to say. I could only repeat what was in it,” he said.
Branscom denied that ballpark talks have led to a serious proposal, telling the News Sentinel. “This could take a very long time and we really don’t know what the plan is. Like I said, there’s no proposal before us, before the city of Knoxville.”
If the clause concerning the team’s early departure from Smokies Park is indeed a deterrent, then it would need to be resolved in some fashion for the team to make a move to Knoxville ahead of Boyd’s schedule. However, given that Boyd directly told Knoxville officials that discussions with Sevier County were very much within the realm of possibility, it is likely that the team is keeping its options open.
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