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Knoxville, Knox County leaders meet for workshop about proposed downtown stadium

The timeline would have the city and county voting on the agreement by mid-November.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Leaders for Knoxville and Knox County met for a joint workshop Monday to discuss how to move forward with the development of a proposed mixed-use baseball stadium downtown. 

Negotiators said the maximum exposure of public funds is $74.3 million, down $200,000 from the estimated number in August. After a $13.5 million grant from the State of Tennessee, the Sports Authority would have to take out $65 million in bonds as debt to pay for the construction. 

Smokies' Owner Randy Boyd said he will contribute $14 million in land for the project. Additionally, developers are expected to contribute $6 million towards the construction. 

Any cost overruns in the construction of the stadium would be covered by the developer. 

Knoxville and Knox County expect to service $3.2 million in debt every year. Most of the money to pay off the debt will come from sales tax revenue in and around the stadium and from $1 million in annual rent from the Tennessee Smokies. The city and county also expect to receive around $750,000 in Payment In Lieu of Property Tax. 

After all of the external payments towards the debt, planners expect the city and county to pay an average of $240,000 a year towards the debt. However, they would not be able to use property tax revenues to pay that amount. 

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said $240,000 is less than the city pays to fund its golf courses every year. 

Both Mayor Kincannon and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs spoke in favor of the stadium agreement.

Knoxville City Council members Seema Singh and Amelia Parker were the only representatives from the city and the county to speak against the plan. 

Councilwoman Singh said she is in favor of the stadium project, but said she wanted a Community Benefits Agreement in writing. As part of the CBA, Councilwoman Singh said she wanted to see a minimum wage of $15.50 and a commitment from the developers and the Smokies that they would hire local workers. 

In a statement at the beginning of the meeting, Smokies owner Randy Boyd said this project would already benefit the community, and pointed to his signed agreement with the Knoxville Area Urban League to promote disadvantaged business owners. Boyd also pointed to the more than $100 million in private development he pledged to bring around the stadium and his donations to charities around the proposed stadium site. 

Councilwoman Parker previously said she would like for the project to move forward without public funds. 

The Knoxville City Council and the Knox County Commission will vote next week on an interlocal agreement to give the Sports Authority permission to issue $65 million in bonds. 

The city and county negotiators said this vote would show whether city councilmembers and county commissioners are on board with the draft agreements and the plan to build the mix-use stadium. If they vote to approve the bonds, negotiators would work towards a final agreement, expected to be finished early next year. 

The scheduled votes on the interlocal agreement are as follows:

  • Nov. 10 - the Sports Authority Board would vote on the agreement
  • Nov. 15 - the Knox County Commission would vote on the agreement
  • Nov. 16 - the Knoxville City Council would vote on the agreement

A majority of both the Knox County Commission and the Knoxville City Council would need to vote to approve the agreement before the city and county can develop the stadium. 

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