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Weekend edition June 16, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Construction of downtown Knoxville stadium officially begins

Only two years behind schedule, area leaders met to break ground on the multi-sport stadium being built downtown. The Knoxville Smokies are expected to play ball there beginning Spring 2025.

Construction is officially underway following a groundbreaking ceremony for the $114 million multi-purpose stadium that will bring baseball back to East Knoxville after 25 years.

Community leaders gathered June 13 at the stadium site on the edge of the Old City for a short program with speakers that included City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Dr. Charles Lomax, President and CEO of Knoxville Area Urban League, Rev. Reneé Kesler, President of Beck Cultural Exchange Center, and Randy Boyd, owner of Boyd Sports.

The stadium project reflects the combined efforts of the City of Knoxville, Knox County, the Sports Authority, Boyds Sports, GEM Community Development Group, the Knoxville Area Urban League, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Partners Development, the construction team of Denark Construction, Barton Malow and Elite Diversified Construction, Inc., the design team of BarberMcMurry Architects, DIA and Populous, and Knoxville and Knox County elected officials.

Kincannon praised the collaboration that made the project possible and called it “the epitome of a win-win public-private partnership that truly puts the interests of the community first.”

Stadium rendering. Credit: Moxley Carmichael.

“This venue for professional baseball, soccer, festivals and concerts will greatly enhance the quality of life for Knoxville residents and the experience of visitors to our city,” Kincannon said. “Outside the stadium, there will be new public plazas and streets vibrant with new businesses. Remember, this is a space that has been dormant for decades. This public-private investment represents new jobs, East Knoxville redevelopment, and game-changing wealth-building opportunities. The total economic impact of this project will be close to half a billion dollars over 30 years.”

Jacobs, like Kincannon, was an early supporter of the stadium project because of its overall benefit for the city and county.

“It is exciting to be breaking ground on something that will be transformative for an area that has been in dire need of investment and development,” Jacobs said. “I have no doubt the stadium will easily become the centerpiece of downtown and a destination for people around the region.”

Boyd Sports operates the Tennessee Smokies Minor League Baseball team, which will be renamed the Knoxville Smokies with plans to start the first season in the new stadium in 2025. One Knox SC of the United Soccer League (USL) also will call the multi-purpose stadium home.

“This stadium will provide a space and a purpose that brings people together and serves as a catalyst for growth,” Boyd said. “The people gathered here have been instrumental in impacting the rebirth of Knoxville’s downtown in the past decade, and as we grow with intention, we will connect East Knoxville with the Old City and rejuvenate an area to create positive change.”

The Knoxville Area Urban League partnered with the stadium project team to encourage participation by contractors and subcontractors classified as “disadvantaged business enterprises” (DBE); to identify minority entrepreneurs who want to open businesses in the development; and to assist with training and placement of individuals for available jobs.

“Today, we start building,” Lomax said. “The incredible talent and visionaries gathered on this site have worked for several years to get to this point. This area, filled with such a rich history, will now serve as a gateway between the Old City and East Knoxville. We all look forward to returning in two years to officially open a new stadium and celebrate new possibilities in East Knoxville.”

The groundbreaking of the stadium, June 2023. Credit: Moxley Carmichael.

Two private developments adjacent to the stadium already have been announced, including a $70 million, 233-unit apartment community called Yardley Flats and a $55 million nine-story building that will house condos, retail businesses, and the team’s office space called “The Beauford Delaney Building.”

Yardley Flats honors William Francis Yardley, a civil rights leader, politician, and Knoxville’s first Black attorney, while the condo building recognizes the connection to the internationally acclaimed artist Beauford Delaney and his original childhood home that stood one block from the site of the stadium project.

GEM Community Development Group partnered with a cultural and historical advisory committee led by Rev. Reneé Kesler, president of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, to recognize the rich Black history and culture of the location of the project, as well as reflecting the multi-racial history of baseball in the community, including the 1920 Knoxville Giants, an inaugural Negro League team that won the first league championship.

“The cultural significance of this project cannot be overstated, and it’s so important to establish the history of what was once here,” Kesler said. “The Beck Cultural Exchange Center has been intentional about ensuring that everyone who comes to an event at the new stadium understands the connection and contributions of the Black community.”

The stadium will be funded with $65 million in local government bonds; $13.5 million state grant; $2.5 investment earnings on bonds and state grant; $13 million payment from Boyd; and a loan from Boyd up to $20 million to Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC) to be transferred to the Sports Authority for construction.

This information comes from a release from Moxley Carmichael, which also oversees Grand Slam Knox, a website that keeps readers up to date on stadium updates.

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