KODAK, Tenn. — After the Knoxville City Council and Knox County Commission voted to finance a mixed-use stadium in downtown Knoxville, one small business owner in Kodak wonders what the impact will be if the Tennessee Smokies leave their current home in Kodak.
"I hate to see it leave," said Fred Kueber from Hitches & Honey. "We need to step up and say we want to keep it."
The Smokies have not yet notified Sevierville and Sevier County about plans to leave the baseball. Their lease on the stadium expires in 2025.
Both the city and county financed the stadium. Sevierville said it still owes about $3.05 million for the stadium, debt they expect to be fully paid by June 2025.
Representatives from Sevier County were not available to comment on how much they still owed on the stadium.
If the Smokies left Kodak at the end of their lease, city and county leaders expect the stadium to be fully paid off.
"I think you'll see a little impact if they leave," said Sevier County Economic Council Executive Director Allen Newton. "But there is so much development that's coming out there, I think it'll make it up quickly."
Newton pointed to the growth around the stadium, including the 407, Gateway to Adventure, a 200-acre development planned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
"It all got started because the Tennessee Smokies located there at exit 407," Newton said.
The ECBI said they have been involved in conversations about what happens to the stadium next, but have not committed to anything.
"They do have a vested interest in the stadium and are open to development ideas," said Matthew Cross, CEO of OE Entertainment, an organization partnering with the ECBI on their 407 development. "They have made no commitments but have been in discussions with the City and the County about different options."
The Smokies have yet to formally notify Sevierville and Sevier County about plans to leave Kodak.
Both the Knoxville City Council and the Knox County Commission approved an Interlocal Agreement to finance a mixed-use stadium downtown. The agreement would allow the Knoxville Sports Authority to issue $65 million in bonds.
The development group and the group that owns the Tennessee Smokies have not signed any agreements with the Knoxville Sports Authority to build the stadium in downtown Knoxville. City and County leaders expect those agreements to be ready early next year.