It’s a done deal: the Tennessee Smokies (Double-A South) will be playing at a new Knoxville ballpark in 2024 after final approval from the Knoxville City Council.
On a 5-1 vote the Council last night approved the financial plan for the new ballpark, which will also be used for pro soccer and other community events. As envisioned by Smokies owner Randy Boyd, the ballpark will be the centerpiece of $142 million in new development near Knoxville’s Old City area, including retail, residential, restaurants, and potentially a new downtown grocery store.
The ballpark will be owned by the Knoxville Knox County Sports Authority, with Knox County and the city part of the funding process. Though this is billed as final approval, there are still some important steps to be completed, such as a lease between the Smokies and the Sports Authority. But unless something goes terribly awry, you could see construction begin as soon as January 2022.
The financial plan calls for service on the bonds to be $3.2 million per year. The Smokies will pay $1 million in annual rent and approximately $750,000 in payments in lieu of taxes. The remaining annual debt at $480,000 is expected to be addressed by sales-tax proceeds at the ballpark and the surrounding development. The city and county will put up the $480,000 as the development ramps up, with the sales-tax revenue projected to turn a profit in coming years. Right now the cost of the ballpark is envisioned as $80 million; the public funding is capped at $74.5 million, and the Smokies will cover any additional overages.
Rendering courtesy Tennessee Smokies.
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