KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Changes to a proposed design for a multiuse stadium in downtown Knoxville are expected to cut thousands of square footage from the project in order to reduce overrun costs and keep the stadium on track for the 2025 target completion date.
The Knoxville-Knox County Sports Authority Board held a meeting Tuesday, July 26, to discuss stadium design and cost management. Total costs of the project are still yet to be finalized, but developers are grappling with costs rising beyond the nearly $80 million in public funds already committed to the project by local and state officials.
The Sports Authority is planning several changes to the stadium design such as getting rid of the second floor on either side of the club seating area, eliminating retail space on the east side of the stadium and moving team offices into an adjoining building.
Another cost-cutting measure involves not covering First Creek with the stadium but rather incorporating it into the stadium footprint.
“The elimination of the necessity of covering First Creek allowed the stadium design to be more efficient and probably to add an element to the stadium that will be iconic, said Boyd Sports CEO Doug Kirchhofer. “[It will] be another signature piece of the stadium because of the inclusion or the presence of the First Creek area within the footprint of the stadium.”
Estimates for the project started at 65 million dollars in the early stages but swelled to 80 million dollars by spring 2022. Knoxville and Knox County have pledged to pay $65 million in public bonds with a $13.5 million economic development grant for the site included in the Tennessee fiscal budget.
Tennessee Smokies Owner Randy Boyd donated to the city roughly half of the 14-acre site in the Old City neighborhood. Boyd Sports and the Tennessee Smokies AA Southern League baseball team will lease the stadium for $1 million annually.
Boyd has pledged to bring more than $100 million in private investment to the area, which would serve as one of several revenue sources for paying down the stadium debt.
The total debt due on the project is estimated around $3.2 million. It will be largely paid with the $1 million annual lease, a payment-in-lieu of tax of $750,000 and tax revenue from the stadium and surrounding retail developments. The City and Knox County’s anticipated payment toward the stadium debt would be about $240,000 for each government annually for the first 10 years.
After the first decade, city officials claim that an independent economic impact analysis shows the project has the potential to pay for itself.
“Discussions between the City, County and Boyd Sports on how to finalize the multi-use stadium design and manage costs are continuing, including a meeting Wednesday involving Mayors Jacobs and Kincannon, Randy Boyd and others. Significant progress is being made. The details are not yet finalized, so we are unable to discuss any of the specifics at this point. However, the City, County and Mr. Boyd are excited and confident that the stadium project is continuing to move forward. Play ball in 2025!”Eric Vreeland, City of Knoxville Director of Communications
The stadium is expected to be open in time for the 2025 baseball season, though officials have not ruled out that it may be ready to host other events by 2024. The stadium has been designed to accommodate hundreds of events per year including concerts, festivals as well as professional baseball and soccer games.
Upon their return to Knoxville in 2025, the Tennessee Smokies will officially change their name back to the Knoxville Smokies.
The first round of utility work related stadium began in May with crews working to relocate water and sanitary sewer lines on multiple streets just east of the Old City neighborhood.
“We’re trying to build enough cushion, enough leeway into the timeline and be realistic,” said Kirchhofer. “There’s not a lot of cushion left in order to make sure we are open in 2025, which is the goal and still a realistic goal. Everybody is hopeful and optimistic that that’s achievable.”