KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Knoxville Chamber has approved the development of a multi-use downtown stadium as organizers announce discussions to bring soccer to the proposed $65-million project.

The Knoxville Chamber, a local business organization which aims to drive regional economic growth, announced Tuesday that its board of directors voted to support the development of the Knoxville Sports and Entertainment Park. 

The proposal would see the return of the Tennessee Smokies to downtown Knoxville and site developers have pledged to bring more than $100 million in private investment for residential properties, dining and retail businesses.

“Our board cited several reasons to support the Knoxville Sports and Entertainment Park. Those included the redevelopment of a currently blighted area, the venue’s proximity to a part of town that’s seen historic disinvestment, the significant private development that will accompany the public investment, and its role as civic furniture that will help retain and attract much-needed young talent to the region.”

Amy Nolan, the Chamber’s vice president of regional enhancement

The site, situated in Knoxville’s Old City, totals around 14 acres. Tennessee Smokies owner Randy Boyd plans to give roughly half to the sports authority for a stadium, which Boyd Sports would lease for an estimated $1 million annually, if the plan is approved. The site would be managed by the new Sports Authority of the County of Knox and the City of Knoxville.

Governor Bill Lee included $13.5 million in his budget proposal to help the sports authority pay for an estimated $65 million public stadium. The budget has now passed. The Tennessee legislature has also approved a measure that would allow tax revenue generated inside the stadium to be kept locally, for up to thirty years, to offset the public investment.

Boyd Sports and Knox Pro Soccer, a group bringing a United Soccer League franchise to Knoxville, announced they will hold discussions on the soccer team to play home games at the stadium. The stadium has been designed to accommodate sports beyond baseball and is estimated to be completed in 2023.

“We have said since the beginning that the stadium would be multiuse. The design of the stadium allows for other sports, such as soccer, and multiple other community events that can fill the seats throughout the year. We look forward to meeting with the local United Soccer League group to discuss any possibilities going forward.”

Randy Boyd, founder of Boyd Sports

Knox Pro Soccer, who have yet to announce the official team name and branding, will start playing in 2022. The team will begin in USL League Two, a league that allows college-level and elite high school players with professional aspirations to participate in high-level competition while maintaining NCAA eligibility. The group aims to later join USL League One, a fully professional league with paid contracts which is considered the third tier of American soccer.

The proposal has yet to go before the Knoxville City Council or Knox County Commission. City and county leaders recently held a joint workshop to discuss the merits of the project.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon have expressed support for the stadium project and discussions to host the United Soccer League franchise at the site.

“We’ve said all along: If this stadium project proceeds, it will be a community amenity that’s much more than just a place to play and watch professional baseball,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “It will be a space for everyone to enjoy. This non-binding Boyd Sports agreement further demonstrates a good-faith commitment to designing a multi-use stadium to accommodate many different uses, and we all know, Knoxville is a fútbol town!”