KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – $114 million— That’s the estimated final cost of the multiuse stadium in downtown Knoxville that will host the Tennessee Smokies and other events. City and county officials said Monday that their plans to commit $65 million in public bonds and other tax incentives to the project won’t change.
Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Tennessee Smokies Owner Randy Boyd released a finalized funding plan that put the final Guaranteed Maximum Price of the project at almost $114 million, a sharp increase of the original estimated cost of $65 million.
“We have carefully accessed the costs and benefits,” Kincannon said. “I am 100% confident that the benefits to the people of this community far exceed the costs.”
Officials attributed the new figure to inflation and record-high construction costs. The scale of the stadium design has already been scaled back to reduce overrun costs.
Despite the inflated price, local officials said that commitment of public funding hasn’t changed. The City and County Commission has already approved the issuance of $65 million in bonds. The state has approved a $13.5 million economic development grant for the project.
According to a release from the city and county, Boyd has agreed to contribute the funds needed to pay for the costs increases over the previously-approved plan. Boyd will also provide up to $20 million in funding that would be repaid from the Tax Increment Financing district, an area around the stadium in which property tax revenues from new developments would go towards paying the stadium debt.
Boyd has donated roughly half of the 14-acre site for the project, which he acquired in 2016 for $6 million.
The total annual debt to be paid by the city and county has been estimated at $3.2 million, more than half of which will come from a $1 million annual lease payment and $750,000 annual payment-in-lieu of tax from Boyd. Sales tax revenue from the stadium and surrounding retail developments would also go towards these costs.
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.
“Hotel/motel tax collections — which are what we will use to finance our costs – are 50% higher now than when the stadium and its financing were initially introduced,” Mayor Jacobs said. “So the County is still in a strong fiscal position to move forward with this project.”
Officials recommended the funding plan to the Sports Authority Board at its meeting on Tuesday, March 7. The board approved the plan.
Project officials have estimated the stadium’s total economic impact at $480 million over the next 30 years and will create 3,000 jobs between construction and stadium operations, 400 of which would become full-time.
“The public stadium will be the catalyst for hundreds of millions of dollars in new private investment, which will in turn grow our local economy and create jobs,” Mayor Kincannon said. “Specifically, this will create new opportunities for wealth-building in East Knoxville. And while the stadium will be a great new public amenity in a part of the city where disinvestment has occurred for far too long, the many new events – professional baseball, soccer, outdoor concerts and much more – will also enhance our quality of life for all of Knoxville.”
Utility work on the area began in April 2022. A groundbreaking ceremony on stadium construction is expected in the spring.
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.
“I think having the new stadium that can seat at least 8,000 people,” Kincannon said. “For concerts you can be on the field, so I think for concerts it can be up to 12,000. That will be a nice compliment.”
Upon their return to Knoxville in 2025, the Tennessee Smokies will officially change their name back to the Knoxville Smokies.
“This is a very exciting time for our community, and we are happy to be collaborating with the leaders of our city and county to make this important project a reality,” Boyd said. “We are looking forward to 2025 when we will be playing Smokies baseball and hosting many other amazing events at the beautiful new stadium.”