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Council confirms support of stadium project, financing resource in 8-1 vote Tuesday night

A sports authority would oversee construction of the project east of the James White Parkway near the Old City.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville City Council is on tap Tuesday night to confirm its support of a downtown stadium and the use of sales tax receipts from the surrounding neighborhood to help pay for it.

Mayor Indya Kincannon also provided details about a $1 million budget amendment to help improve safety in the city. She presented the amendment after three teens were killed due to gun violence in three weeks.

Details about the Knoxville City Council's Tuesday meeting are below.

$1 Million Budget Amendment

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon gave a brief update on a $1 million budget amendment to improve safety across the city with the help of Cities United, a national network of mayors who work to reduce homicides and shootings among young Black men and boy ages 14 to 24 by 50%.

"We are working quickly to develop a scope of work with them," she said. "Later this week, we will be issuing a notice to proceed with the initial phase of this work."

She also said city leaders will meet with local stakeholders to coordinate partners around a shared goal of preventing violent crime.

She also said that a full contract with Cities United to provide assistance in Knoxville will be available in April.

Police Advisory and Review Committee

Knoxville Police Advisory and Review Committee submitted an annual report around 20 pages long. LaKenya Middlebrook, PARC's Executive Director, presented the report.

"Knoxville should be very pleased and honored that we have the longest-serving police review committee in the state of Tennessee," a member of PARC said.

She said that they closed a total of 39 citizen complaints in 2020, which included a total of 6 complaints from 2019. She said that they discussed 12 internal affairs cases and 11 referral action forms provided by the Knoxville Police Department.

Old City Stadium

Council took up a resolution asking local members of the General Assembly to introduce special legislation that allows for using state and local sales taxes raised within a defined geographic area around the project site to go toward debt service on the proposed $65 million project.

It passed 8-1, with councilmember Amelia Parker voting against it.

Councilmember Seema Singh proposed postponing the resolution for two weeks while the city council works with community members on amendments. It failed 7-2.

Several people signed up to speak about the resolution, both in support and against the resolution. Some said that the stadium would benefit Knoxville's economy and improve its housing market. One person said that it would benefit the city since several sports fans live in it.

Other speakers claimed that votes in support of the resolution showed members supported using tax money to build the stadium, instead of supporting schools or providing community needs. One person raised concerns that state legislation could involve other counties, and encouraged the council to read the legislation before approving the resolution.

Some speakers raised concerns that policies like the baseball stadium would not benefit working-class people and said that most of the conversation has been from people who would profit from it.

"It's irresponsible to waste money on something people can't even afford to enjoy," one speaker said.

Officials said that there will be a third-party entity to evaluate the economic impact of the stadium.

State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and state Rep. Jason Zachary have already introduced the appropriate legislation for the sales tax collection zone, and their respective bills are making their way through both houses of the Legislature.   

Planners say the stadium can't be built by a sports authority just with that money. They also anticipate using rent paid by tenant Randy Boyd and his Tennessee Smokies baseball team and sales taxes collected from sales inside the stadium, along with other resources.

Knox County Commission already has passed a similar resolution.

One of the next big steps is appointing members to be on the sports authority that'll oversee the project. That's in the works with both the city and county expected to name people to the body.

The stadium would be built with bonds paid back to investors over probably 30 years.

Boyd, a millionaire entrepreneur, wants to move his Double AA team from Sevier County in time to play ball in spring 2022 at the new stadium.

He hopes stadium construction will start later this year. He's also planning to lead some $140 million in private development, including housing and commercial development around the stadium.

Besides baseball, the stadium is envisioned as a place for diverse concerts and community events.

The baseball team once played at Bill Meyer Stadium in East Knoxville but left some 20 years ago for a new home off Interstate 40 and exit 407 in Sevier County.