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Play ball: Council, commission to meet with Smokies team about Old City stadium project

Double A team owner Randy Boyd is promoting the project, which would feature baseball, other sports and even music concerts.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Now that they've created a sports authority to oversee it, Knoxville City Council members and Knox County Commission members are ready to talk about next potential steps in building an Old City stadium and events complex.

The council and commission will meet 5 p.m. Thursday with staff and representatives of the Double A Tennessee Smokies baseball team by Zoom. Elected leaders and staff will take part.

County spokesman Mike Donila said Mayor Glenn Jacobs may take part. 

Millionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Randy Boyd is clearing an Old City industrial site east of James White Parkway that's planned for the center as well as commercial and residential development. Boyd would give over the land for the project, which would be publicly owned.

"I think this could be such a catalytic event for all of East Knoxville and downtown," Boyd told 10News. "The idea of building a baseball park is not something of creating a venue just for baseball, but creating an entire entertainment venue that can have concert soccer, all kinds of other tournaments, family reunions, we could have farmers markets, but it'll be a park that's used year-round for multiple uses."

Construction could start this year. Boyd has said it's possible baseball could be played in the stadium in 2023.

Credit: Randy Boyd/Moxley Carmichael
Early concept draft of potential Old City stadium and events venue.

He owns the Smokies, which are now obligated to play at Smokies Stadium in Sevier County. Boyd, however, has signaled he's ready to bring the baseball team back to Knoxville and has the land to accommodate the project.

The team, or some iteration of it, played much of the second half of the 20th century at Bill Meyer Stadium off Magnolia Avenue. The stadium has since been torn down.

In December, both governing bodies approved a measure to create a sports authority that would cover financing for an Old City stadium.

Tax revenue collected from event sales would help pay for the project, which has a price tag billed as being in the $50-million to $60-million range. The sports authority would issue bonds to pay for construction.

Boyd has also said he could guarantee $140 million in commercial development - retail, restaurants and housing - immediately in conjunction with the stadium.

Many council members and commissioners have expressed support for the idea so far; a couple, however, have objected or raised questions about details of the project such as parking.