KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — November will be critical for the proposed multiuse stadium complex in Knoxville’s Old City. In a meeting of the Knoxville/Knox County Sports Authority Board meeting Tuesday, members learned key agreements are set to be released next week, including a potential lease with Boyd Sports, and a detailed development agreement.
On Nov. 8, Knox County Commission and Knoxville City Council will hold a joint workshop again to discuss plan specifics. The Sports Authority Board will meet again on Nov. 10 to vote on an interlocal agreement with the city and county. Then, on Nov. 15, county leaders will vote on a first reading of the interlocal agreement. City Council will consider the same agreement the following night.
Drew McKenna, a partner with One Knoxville Sporting Club, told the board Tuesday the team has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Boyd Sports. He outlined his vision for professional soccer in Knoxville and his belief that this will impact children in the area and their futures.
“Historically, in the U.S., soccer has essentially been a country club sport, golf, tennis, and soccer. It’s been behind the white picket fence, behind the gated community. For us, we don’t think that’s good for the game,” he said. McKenna added the location gives access to the sport to young people, which could result in scholarships or even careers.
“What’s important for us as a club long-term is making youth soccer in Knoxville really vibrant, both so they can be fans of ours but also, hopefully, be our players. We think there’s great opportunity, great athletes, great people in East and North Knoxville and we want to grow the game of soccer there.”
Phyllis Nichols, President and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League, is also focused on access. She updated the board on the ongoing efforts to ensure the East Knoxville community is prepared for future economic opportunities, and that they’re given enough notice to realize them.
Despite the inroads Nichols says have resulted from the partnership between KAUL and project developers, many spoke again Tuesday about the need for a community benefits agreement. Nichols, who acknowledged everyone is entitled to their own opinion and advocacy, said existing partnerships have already resulted in some benefits, connecting disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) with majority firms as well as offering business and workforce training.
“We want to build the capacity for more businesses to have opportunity than just one or two. There may be some disagreement with that, but that is our strategy. We believe we help the community by helping the most,” she said.
Nichols said her team will track employment numbers, wages, and employment lengths throughout the project’s phases. “The urban league is a viable partner in this. our intent to make sure that residents of east Knoxville are included is a focus of our work every day,” she added.
First votes on project development plans, and the lease agreement, would likely be set for December, meaning the earliest the stadium could receive financing would likely be January 2022.