Knoxville officials and the owners of the Tennessee Smokies (Class AA; Southern League) are discussing a new downtown ballpark — and potentially restoring a historic creek in the process.
Though the talks have been deemed as being preliminary, with the team’s lease at Smokies Stadium in Sevier County running until 2025, there’s still enough data out to evaluate what a ballpark’s impact in Knoxville’s Old City area could be. One potential site, on land currently controlled by Smokies owner Randy Boyd, abuts First Creek, which runs through Knoxville and eventually to the Tennessee River. Like many urban creeks, First Creek’s route has been altered through the years, confined in part by concrete barriers.
But flow it does, and some in Knoxville see an opportunity to open up the creek if an Old City ballpark is built. From the Knoxville News:
[Knoxville Councilman Mark] Campen is supportive of a possible ballpark in the Old City and said he hopes project leaders will take First Creek’s possibilities into their plans.
“How can we enhance it if we’re going to have this major development when we’re talking about more impervious surface parking lots, how can we do something to First Creek to make it more attractive? I don’t know,” he said. “But it would be neat to make it an amenity where you could have some green space on the periphery of the ball field or whatever it may be.”
Campen said the city could regrade the bank of the river or take down the 20- to 30-foot wall currently encasing the stream.
Everyone is calling any new-ballpark talks preliminary, but it sounds like some support is already being drummed up among city officials.
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