KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The wait for the return of minor league baseball to Knoxville has been extended. Tennessee Smokies owner Randy Boyd and local leaders announced Monday that the team won’t move into a new multiuse stadium in Downtown Knoxville until 2025.
The City of Knoxville, Knox County and Boyd Sports had hoped to see the first pitch at the new stadium in Spring 2024 after the $74.5-million stadium was approved by city and county leaders in November. Citing global supply chain issues and a volatile construction market, opening day has now been pushed back.
While the stadium may be completed earlier and available for other events before 2025, Boyd Sports said it is not feasible to move the Smokies, the AA team of the Chicago Cubs, from Sevier County to Knoxville in mid-season in 2024.
“We remain 100 percent committed to completing the stadium and moving the Smokies to Knoxville,” said Randy Boyd, the founder of Boyd Sports, which operates the Smokies. “and we appreciate the continued support of the city and county as we develop the new schedule together and continue the momentum on the project.”
Overall work is moving forward on the stadium plan despite heightened demand for new construction and supply chain disruptions that can cause shortages or delays. Work is scheduled to begin on the stadium property within the next 60 days with the movement of water and sewer infrastructure off the site in preparation for the project.
“We are continuing to work diligently on finalizing plans to provide Knoxville and Knox County a top-quality project that fits within the budget,” Boyd said. Boyd Sports and local leaders have agreed that the new date is the most feasible. The timing already had been discussed earlier in a Sports Authority Board meeting.
Boyd Sports and the Tennessee Smokies AA Southern League baseball team will lease the stadium for $1 million annually. Boyd donated the land to the city as part of the public-private deal and 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 multiuse complex is projected to cost $74.5 million in public dollars.
“This publicly owned stadium will be a game-changer for East Knoxville in terms of creating opportunity and jobs, stimulating private investment and entrepreneurship, and – in the long term – helping families to build wealth,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “As a venue for baseball, soccer, festivals and concerts, the stadium also will be a unique amenity that greatly enhances the quality of life in East Knoxville.
“It’s imperative that this project be done right. If that means opening the stadium a little later, it’s worth a small wait to ensure we end up with what we need and want.”
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs also released a statement in response to news of the delay.
“With all the problems everyone is currently experiencing with supply chain and labor issues, this news is disappointing but not unexpected. I think the responsible thing to do is pause and come up with a good plan that addresses these new challenges,” Jacobs said.
The team has been known as the Tennessee Smokies since 2000 when the team moved to an 8,000-seat stadium in Kodak. Upon their return to Knoxville in 2025, the team will officially change their name back to the Knoxville Smokies.