KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knoxville City Council stepped into the batter’s box on Tuesday night by approving an interlocal agreement for a proposed downtown stadium. Knox County commissioners and the City/County Sports Authority Board have each already approved the interlocal agreement.
The vote was not unanimous, as City Council member Amelia Parker voted no while Charles Thomas and Seema Singh voted to abstain. The vote came after a motion to postpone the vote failed.
Councilman Thomas, who made the motion to postpone, said he didn’t feel comfortable voting without resolving the community benefits agreement issue.
The stadium complex will welcome the Tennessee Smokies back to downtown Knoxville and site developers have pledged to bring more than $100 million in private investment for residential properties, dining and retail businesses. Plans also include hosting other events, such as One Knoxville Sporting Club games, festivals and concerts.
Randy Boyd, owner of the Tennessee Smokies, says there are agreements in the works with local organizations that would ensure the community benefits from the project in some way; whether that be workforce development or youth development.
“There’s a lot of work to do. There’s still multiple agreements to get signed which we’ve discussed in the meeting. We also have construction drawings and all the things that go into actually building a quarter of a billion dollar project,” Boyd said.
Now that City Council and County Commission are on board, the sports authority now has the power to issue bonds to pay for the $74.5 million project. City and county leaders must still approve incentives for the private development projects that would surround the stadium.
“It’s a win,” Boyd said. “It wasn’t pretty always, but we ended up with a victory. We’re excited about what this is going to do for our community, what it’s going to do for East Knoxville, what it’s going to do for our region.”
Labor unions, members of the community and some council members have all expressed concerns about the lack of a community benefits agreement. It would put the promises of gainful employment for members of the community in the form of a contract to make sure the East Knoxville community as well as minority and disadvantaged business enterprises are included in the opportunities the project brings.
At this point the project doesn’t have such an agreement —– but the documents making it happen do list goals including 15% DBE involvement.
The sports authority is scheduled to hold a workshop in December focusing on the development agreement and the lease agreement. The sports authority could approve them Jan. 25 if city and county leaders approve the other necessary steps.