Randy Boyd to discuss baseball, economy, and political future

KNOXVILLE - You can watch state Randy Boyd's appearance on Inside Tennessee during its Friday taping at 3 p.m. on WBIR.com, or watch Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. on WBIR.

It's been just over a month since Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd finalized his purchase of 11 acres of Old City property that many people believed was a precursor to plans to move his Smokies baseball team back to downtown Knoxville.

Boyd, who serves as the state's Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, is also the baseball team's owner.

Boyd has been traveling, and for the first time, will sit down with 10News for a taping of Inside Tennessee where moderator John Becker intends to question Boyd about his future plans for the Smokies.

The Smokies moved from downtown Knoxville to their current location in Kodak, right of I-40 in Sevier County, in 2000. The existing contract to keep the team there extends through 2025.

While Boyd has contended publicly that he has no immediate plans for the Old City property, his conversations with the previous property owners and with leaders in both Sevier and Knox counties over the years show that a Smokies move has been debated.

A series of emails obtained by 10News show that Boyd discussed the matter with several key members of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero's administration, members of a private foundation that benefits East Tennessee initiatives, and the Smokies leadership.

"My current plan is to wait to the last year or two so my penalty is minimal," Boyd wrote in a Feb. 11 email to Christi Branscom, the city's chief operating officer. "On the other hand, I might be able to negotiate a better long-term win-win with Sevier/Sevierville. I can share some ideas on that. ..."

Emails show officials also discussed the possible price for a new stadium - as much as $39 million.

Informal talks were still going on six months later, emails show.

"Randy Boyd has been associated with the possibility of a future downtown baseball stadium in Knoxville," Doug Kirchofer, the team's CEO, said in an Aug. 29 email to Branscom. "This connection is a natural consequence of Randy's existing investment and interest in downtown development as well as his ownership of the Smokies."

Sevier County and Sevierville leaders also confirmed to 10News that Boyd had discussions with them about moving the Smokies, and their intentions to hold the team to the lease.

The city and county used bonds to help pay for the stadium, which the Smokies lease for $300,000 a year.

Guidelines were built into the lease that would require the team to pay off existing debt service, which would include interest on the initial bonds, if the team were to leave early.

Boyd acknowledged all those discussion in a statement to 10News,

"It's no secret that I've had conversations with officials in both Sevierville and Sevier County, as well as in Knoxville, about the different options the Smokies could explore down the road, because ultimately, it is the communities that build and support stadiums,” he said. “But those conversations are in the earliest stages of looking for a long term “win-win” plan.”

Boyd added that he has “the highest regard” for the fans and community partners in Sevierville and Sevier County and that he’s “enjoyed a great working relationship there” and will “continue to invest in Smokies Stadium and look for ways to create the best possible experience for our fans in the years to come."

(© 2016 WBIR)


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