The prospect of a downtown Knoxville ballpark for the Tennessee Smokies (Class AA; Southern League) could gain traction, as city officials are interested in exploring the idea.
The Smokies currently play home games at Smokies Stadium in Sevier County, where they are playing under a lease that will run until 2025. For the longer term, a return to Knoxville–where the franchise played through the 1999 season as the Knoxville Smokies–could be in the cards, with officials envisioning a new downtown ballpark as part of a larger mixed-use development initiative near Knoxville’s Old City neighborhood.
Knoxville officials are confirming discussions with Smokies owner Boyd Sports, though acknowledge that those conversations are very preliminary at this stage. More from WBIR.com:
Knoxville city officials say they are looking into the possibility of building a mixed-use minor league baseball stadium near the Old City.
City leaders say they want to bring the Smokies back to Knoxville, and say they have been in early talks with the team management.
“I think there’s been a sense that Knoxville misses minor league ball in the city,” Knoxville Chief Policy Officer Bill Lyons said.
This is not the first time that news surrounding a potential downtown Knoxville ballpark has come up, as reports suggesting the possibility surfaced back in 2016 and then again last fall. How discussions between the city and Boyd Sports proceed remain to be seen, but any ballpark plan–especially one that calls for ancillary development in a downtown setting–would have to be planned as part of a multi-year process, likely putting a new facility years away.
Before opening Smokies Stadium in 2000, the Smokies had a long history in Knoxville. From 1954 until 1999, Bill Meyer Stadium in Knoxville hosted several minor league franchises, including the current incarnation of the Smokies, which began play in 1972.