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Community discusses bridge connecting East Knoxville to proposed stadium

Critics of the project said that infrastructure dollars can be better spent, but supporters say that it will bring more housing and employment.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One part of a proposed stadium project is being discussed by community leaders and members in East Knoxville.

Officials proposed using infrastructure funds meant to improve East Knoxville to build a bridge connecting the community to a new stadium being built in the downtown area. In total, city officials approved more than $6 million in affordable housing and infrastructure improvements around the community.

Most of that money will towards the third phase of renovating Austin Homes, as well as building a new development to provide additional affordable housing. Some of it will also be spent to build the stadium bridge, and critics said that the money for it could be better spent elsewhere.

"There's more than can be done on our city streets, rather than just to propose bridges, per se," said Willie Anderson, who lives in Parkridge. "Because I see we've got easy access to the stadium area."

He said getting to the area where developers plan to build the stadium takes around 5 minutes currently and said the money would be better spent improving roads generally around the area. He also said sidewalks around East Knoxville need improvement.

However, city leaders previously approved money to build sidewalks and greenways around the community. The Sports Authority Board also said that the project would help bring more housing and employment to the area.

"And if the jobs are long term, it'll work. But if it's just, a stadium job is temporary seasonal, that might not be, you know, very beneficial," said Felicia Outsy, another resident of the area.

He also said that the money should not only be invested in rental properties. Instead, he would prefer to see the money invested in long-term housing.

"Not just having families, low-income families, rent but helping them to build a foundation where they can invest in the future of their children," she said.

The Sports Authority said they hope to get final approval for the stadium project this year. Meanwhile, the third phase of Austin Homes is estimated to be completed by the end of 2023.