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New website touts benefits, progress of downtown stadium project

The city and county are right now weighing whether to go forward with the project.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Fans who want to bring professional baseball back to Knoxville -- in a brand-new home -- now have a website where they can chart progress on the project.

The website details the specifics of a plan to build a multimillion-dollar stadium below the James White Parkway east of the Old City.

Live webcams give you a view of progress to tear down an old meatpacking plant there and perhaps build a 7,000-seat stadium.

Tennessee Smokies owner Randy Boyd wants to move his Double A team from Sevier County to Knoxville and is pitching the stadium as a new home. His current Sevier County lease ends in 2025.

City of Knoxville and Knox County staff are working with Boyd on the project, which is in the planning stages. The Knoxville City Council and Knox County Commission would have approval on several stages of the project.

It's got an estimated cost of $65 million, which would be financed by a new sports authority through bonds that would be paid back by a variety of sources, including sales tax revenue and team lease payments.

Boyd cautions it also might require $10 million to $15 million more in infrastructure work to become a reality.

An entrepreneur and philanthropist, Boyd has bought the acreage for the stadium, which he would turn over to the public for construction. The sports authority would oversee construction and operation of the stadium.

The Smokies, affiliated with the Chicago Cubs, would play 70 home games at the stadium. The building, however, could host other sports competitions as well as concerts and gatherings.

Backers cite Fort Wayne, Ind.'s downtown stadium project as a good example of what could be done in downtown Knoxville. Some city and county officials have already been to Fort Wayne to tour that stadium.

The website also features conceptual drawings.

The very tentative timeline calls for finishing financing agreements and building plans by the summer or fall, with construction to start perhaps in the fall and finish in time for spring 2023 baseball.

Boyd also is planning $140 million in private development that would include residential and commercial. His family also owns several parcels west of the site, including the Jig and Reel bar and restaurant and Barley's Taproom.

The current president of the University of Tennessee System, Boyd told council members and commissioners last week in a virtual public workshop that he wants to build the commercial and residential space in conjunction with the stadium so that they're ready at the same time.

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