Local businessman and owner of the Tennessee Smokies Randy Boyd said in a statement he has "no plans in place or immediate news to announce" about his recent purchase of property in the Old City.
Boyd held a "brief discussion" with Sevier County leaders several weeks ago to talk about moving the baseball team, officials said.
"It's also 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. But those conversations are in the earliest stages of looking for a long term “win-win” plan," Boyd said in a statement.
The discussion came in the wake of Boyd recently purchasing one of the Knox Rail Salvage properties and a nearby parcel in Knoxville’s Old City for $6 million.
In all, Boyd’s footprint in that area of the Old City now extends to more than 11 acres. He says he's had his eyes on that property for some time.
"Knox Rail Salvage will continue to operate on the downtown Knoxville site through 2017, so there are definitely no plans in place or immediate news to announce about that site. And eventually, whether the Knox Rail Salvage site becomes a new commercial or residential development, a public park for Old City residents and pet lovers, or a new sports complex, I hope it will be a terrific new addition to Knoxville and the Old City," said Boyd.
For months now, rumors have swirled that Boyd, who purchased the team in 2013, would bring the Smokies back to Knoxville.
The team left for Sevier County after the 1999 season.
Boyd said in a statement, "I have the highest regard for our many fans and community partners in Sevierville and Sevier County. The Smokies have enjoyed a great working relationship there for nearly 20 years and we 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."
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters and Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley issued a joint statement Friday morning about a prior discussion they had with Boyd and the possibility that he would move the team.
“We take Randy Boyd at his word, that he does not have any definite plans for the Knoxville Rail Salvage property,” the statement said. “He has stated publicly when he purchased the Tennessee Smokies that he intended to fulfill the lease in Sevierville and Sevier County with the AA Tennessee Smokies. However, several weeks ago Mr. Boyd approached us concerning the possibility of moving the Smokies out of Sevierville and Sevier County. As we stated to Mr. Boyd, we expect him to live up to the terms of the lease which expires at the end of the 2025 season.”
On Friday, officials told WBIR further comments would need to come from Boyd.
“That pretty much says everything I know to say about it – it’s in Mr. Boyd’s hands now,” Mayor Waters said. “It was a surprise to us that they were even looking.”
Waters said when Boyd approached him, he was a little disappointed “but everything is still up in the air.”
When asked about another team coming in, Waters said Boyd talked “about the stadium and what it would look like after that,” but didn’t elaborate.
“We’ve had very preliminary, but no real in-depth conversations,” Waters said.
Mayor Atchley agreed.
"There had been rumors for a couple of years but we had no indication they would move," he said.
Boyd, who is also the state's economic and community development commissioner, has said at this point he has no plans for the Old City property he purchased on Sept. 1.
Boyd bought the Smokies, a Chicago Cubs’ Class AA affiliate, in June 2013.
Officials with the team declined to comment on Boyd’s land purchase.
Boyd’s contract with Sevier County and Sevierville, which co-own the stadium, runs out in 2025.
At that point, the team could agree to another lease or leave.
The city and county issued $19.4 million in bonds to pay for the stadium, which opened in 2000. Guidelines were built into the lease that would require the team to pay off whatever debt service, which would include interest on the initial bonds, is left if the team were to leave prior to 2025.
For example, if the team were to leave today, that could cost as much as $10 million, according to the contract.