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Pro soccer could be part of Knoxville ballpark future

Proposed new Knoxville ballpark

Pro soccer could be part of the schedule at a new downtown Knoxville ballpark, as local investors want to place a USL League Two team there in anticipation of a League One shift.

A group of five local businessmen have launched operations to the point to where they are seeking public input via website responses. Otherwise, everything is in the earliest of planning stages, including team branding, color and crest, as well as finalizing a home for the team.

One option is playing at a new downtown Tennessee Smokies (Class AA; Southern League) ballpark currently in the planning stages. A proposed $142-million mixed-use development in Knoxville’s Old City area would be anchored by a new $65-million ballpark for his team. That ballpark for the Smokies would be the economic fuel driving the mixed-use development featuring 630,000 square feet of residential, restaurants and retail in the ballpark vicinity. Now would be the time for a Knoxville USL League One team committing to play there, so pro soccer can be incorporated into the facility design. Talks between the soccer-team owners and Smokies Randy Boyd have taken place.

But under ideal circumstances that new ballpark won’t open until 2023 at the earliest, which presents an issue: the owners will need to play somewhere else in 2022 if they want to launch next year. One option, according to the Knoxville News, is to play temporarily at Regal Soccer Stadium, home to Lady Vols’ soccer team.

In USA Soccer’s pyramid, USL League Two is an amateur circuit at the fourth level of play, below MLS, USL Championship and USL League One. By USL’s criteria, Knoxville could meet standards in one area for USL Championship play (the total Knoxville MSA exceeds a million residents), but the Knoxville owners apparently want to start small: build a brand at USL League Two and then move to USL League One.

Rendering courtesy Tennessee Smokies.

RELATED STORIES: Work could begin next fall on new downtown Knoxville ballpark; Boyd unveils vision for new Knoxville ballpark; Impact of Potential New Knoxville Ballpark: Beyond the FencesNew Downtown Knoxville Ballpark for Smokies Discussed

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