KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – There’s a slight curveball for the proposed multiuse stadium project in Knoxville’s Old City. County and City leaders held a joint meeting Thursday to discuss the specifics of the plan, including the updated price tag and projected revenue.
The stadium complex was estimated to cost $65 million in public dollars. The projection is now $74.5 million. The increase is largely due to inflation; however, when you factor in tax revenue projections and low interest rates, the project is also now projected to cost the city and county less to build.
If they ultimately agree to the proposal and a lease with Boyd Sports in the months ahead, council members and county commissions will basically be committing to split the annual balance on the debt service for thirty years. An economic impact study by CSL International shows that annual cost is likely no more than $480,000, again, split between the city and county, for three decades.
The total debt due on the project is actually around $3.1 million, once you take out the $13.5 million Gov. Bill Lee set aside in his budget for the project, the revenue from the annual lease on the complex, as well as the estimated $28 million in new sales tax revenue over thirty years, and more than $14 million in new incremental tax revenue. That revenue is already committed, by GEM Development Group, which plans to build at least $100 million in development surrounding the public stadium.
Knox County Commission Chair Larsen Jay left feeling optimistic Thursday night. “I was really excited that really, the city and county are coming together in the first time in my almost 30 years of being part of Knoxville and starting to think about what the future might look like together. That’s been a rare thing. So, I’m excited about the opportunities and I’m excited about everybody working together,” he said.
The economic impact report also forecasted the project would result in $477 million in direct spending for the city, $487 million for the county, and $372 million in direct spending for the state. Tennessee Smokies owner, Randy Boyd, thinks the impact will be much greater, especially given the report doesn’t predict the revenue from future businesses, such as hotels, that will result from the development.
“The economic impact numbers were significant, and a lot of people were very excited about them but they were also very conservative. They, for example, were estimated attendance for the soccer games at 2,700 where the team is forecasting 4,500,” Boyd added.
The plan, for now, is for Boyd Sports to lease and operate the facility year-round. Their plans include hosting other events, such as festivals, concerts, and even other athletic teams, potentially including One Knoxville Sporting Club. Thursday, many city and county leaders asked who would be responsible for capital upgrades, such as heating and air upgrades. Those details are still under consideration, but the general takeaway from the meeting is city and county leaders want to know what unexpected expenses they should, well, expect.
On cost, Jay said “Really, it’s about the community as a whole and the economic potential is astronomical. Now, does that come with investment? You bet. Does it come with some risk? You bet. But does it come with an opportunity? Absolutely.”
Robin Easter was one of a handful of people who spoke following the presentations Thursday. She represents the Old City Association and says everyone has been excited about the plan since it was a rumor. “We think it will attract new business, which will help the businesses that exist. We think it will help property values. We think it will attract tourists from out of town and in town. We think it will bring more residents which will also support our community. I think it will make us a destination within a destination,” she said.