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Downtown stadium project: Answering your questions about projected cost, timeline, financing, impacts

Entrepreneur Randy Boyd wants to move the minor league Smokies baseball team to downtown Knoxville. A stadium will be built to host the team and other activities.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — $65 million? $80 million? $100 million?

The proposed multi-use stadium east of the Old City and James White Parkway has sparked a lot of questions including just how much it'll cost, when it'll be built, who will pay for it and who benefits from the project.

As the city, county, local sports authority and entrepreneur Randy Boyd move ahead on the project, WBIR wants to provide a central source for all your questions about it.

Here we hope to address the biggest questions you may have.

We'll update this story as more information becomes available.

Credit: Boyd Sports
Renderings of what the new downtown stadium could look like.

What is the estimated cost of the stadium?

As of today, the assumed cost is about $100 million. First estimates started at around $65 million. Construction material costs have risen over the last year or so, making it tough to pinpoint exactly what the real price will be, according to project planners.

Look for more specific numbers by the end of 2022, according to Tennessee Smokies principals, as they prepare a maximum-price estimate.

Who will build it?

A city-county sports authority has been created to oversee financing, construction and management of the building, expected to include 7,000 seats for fans. The authority has signed a "turnkey" agreement with Boyd Sports that alows Boyd to build the stadium.

Who will use it?

Proponents say the baseball team will use it for home games, about 70 in a season. The local One Knoxville soccer team also is expected to call it home, perhaps for 16-18 games.

In addition, it'll be available for things such as concerts and community events and space for rent. Some have suggested University of Tennessee baseball also could use it at least for a few games.

City and county leaders have emphasized they want to see it get as much use as possible. The public will be able to use some of its space daily for recreation, likely on a dawn-to-dusk basis.

What is the current likely construction timeline?

The goal is to start construction by early 2023, have it ready for some events some time in 2024 and have it ready for baseball games in April 2025. Early site work started in summer 2022.

How is it going to be paid for?

There will be multiple sources of money. The state has given $13.5 million as a grant. Sales tax revenue collected for sales from inside the stadium during operations will be another revenue source.

Boyd's team also will pay an annual $1 million lease.

Revenue created from a financing district around the stadium should also capture money that can go toward costs. New private development is expected to raise property values, creating new tax money.

The city and county also are expected to split some costs, using non-property tax sources, they say.

The sports authority will issue bonds -- borrowing money with the promise of paying interest to investors -- to get the money needed to pay for construction. The sports authority board has been working more than a year on initial planning.

Credit: WBIR
Businessman Randy Boyd stands where a stadium may some day be located.

What is Randy Boyd paying for?

Boyd paid for the parcels of land on which stadium will be built. He will turn that over to the public in the future. He will not retain ownership of the stadium site.

He'll also pay annual rent to help cover stadium construction costs.

He's also willing to front up to $20 million in a loan to cover a construction budget gap in what everyone thought the project would cost. He's doing this because he wants the project to go forward.

Boyd also is leading a private development team with plans to invest more than $100 million in residential and commercial projects around the stadium itself. At least four buildings are envisioned.

Knoxville formerly had a minor league baseball club for decades. In 2000, the team moved to Sevier County.

Boyd wants to move the Smokies back to Knoxville.

How much taxpayer money would be spent on this?

As of June 2022, estimates were that the city and the county would spend no more than $800,000 apiece per year. Their shares could shrink in size as the years pass.

Both have pledged not to use property tax revenue to cover their share.

So, for example, Knox County will use tax money raised through the hotel-motel tax to cover its share.

What is the role of the city-county sports authority in all of this?

The sports authority, comprised of a group of men and women nominated by the city and county mayors, will have deciding power over financing, construction and management of the site.

Who has supported this project and what have they said?

City and county staffs and the city and county mayors are supportive. They traveled to Fort Wayne, Ind., and to Columbia, S.C., to see other minor league stadiums that have been offered as an example of a success story.

Many council members, commissioners and business leaders endorse it.

Who has opposed this and what have they said?

Some community activists and a couple Knoxville City Council members have raised questions and objections about the project. A common refrain: the project should have a community benefits agreement that lays out how the project will help residents at large and not just the developers.

Credit: Moxley Carmichael

How can the public express its thoughts about this project?

The sports authority board meets monthly. They have a public forum at every meeting. You can find out when their next meeting is here.

In addition, the Knoxville City Council and the Knox County Commission take up matters related to the stadium project. Their meetings are public, and they save time for the public to address them.

Credit: Boyd Sports
Renderings of what the new downtown stadium could look like.

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