The Tennessee Smokies baseball team has been at its current residence in Kodak, Tennessee, for 20 years, but Smokies Owner Randy Boyd wants to bring the team back to downtown Knoxville. The Smokies, previously known as the Knox Sox when they were downtown, attract fans from all across East Tennessee and have acclimated to their current residence for the past 20 years.
Fans that live in the vicinity of the stadium have had some concerns with the stadium moving away from its current location.
“As much as I would love to be five minutes from the stadium, I have a feeling that by the time I found a space and got in (and had to fight traffic on the way out), it wouldn’t be worth it,” Renee Racey said in a Facebook post to the Smokies. “I would rather they stay in Kodak. An easy drive from Knoxville and even when the stadium is packed still doesn’t take long to get in and out. And it just seems right to be in the stadium so close to the mountains with our Smokies!”
The proposal shows the new stadium in the Old City of Knoxville where they will have a smaller version of Wrigleyville and incorporate shopping centers and restaurants into the design so people can use the area around the stadium when there are no games.
Randy Boyd, president of Boyd Sports LLC, said in an emailed statement, “I am very excited to be exploring the idea of returning the Tennessee Smokies to my hometown to a brand-new multi-purpose stadium that will be a lively link between downtown and East Knoxville.”
With this newly designed stadium, Boyd, who is also president of the University of Tennessee, said there are plans for the stadium to be used around 200 days a year with 70 of them being baseball games for the Smokies and the others to be used as meetings and concerts.
“One of the things that will make the new stadium different from the current stadium is the fact that it will be intentionally designed to accommodate large trucks and equipment needed for concert production. The configuration of the current stadium is challenging for staging concerts,” Boyd said.
Many fans feel that the move to Knoxville will help with attendance and downtown life around Knoxville.
“There’s something to be said about the accessibility of the ballpark in Kodak. However, I think a move back to Knoxville is the right thing to do,” Smokies fan Brandon York said on Facebook. “There’s no reason that this quality organization in a tourist-heavy area should be out of the top 50 in attendance. Moving downtown not only makes it closer for many local baseball fans but provides an opportunity for out-of-towners to make a day/night of their trip with other things to experience. Community engagement and infrastructure planning would be two key components of a move, but I think a move would be best.”
Doug Kirchhofer, CEO of Boyd Sports, said the stadium will be owned by the city and county, and will cost about $65 million. “It will be leased to the Smokies baseball team at market rates,” he said. “The surrounding residential, commercial, and retail development will be privately funded and will cost about $142 million.”
The current stadium’s contract is set to expire in 2025.