- A Sports Authority meeting on Tuesday did not result in a new price tag for the Smokies stadium in the Old City.
- As material costs soar, developers will scale back the project, still planned to wrap up by the 2025 season.
- Dirt could begin moving as early as next week before developers get a guaranteed maximum price for the project,
- One major change is the removal of second-floor space for team offices, now planned for a nearby condo building.
The Smokies stadium will be scaled back as developers grapple with unpredictability in material and labor costs, but the project in Knoxville’s Old City is still planned to wrap up in time for the 2025 season.
Tennessee Smokies CEO Doug Kirchhofer said at Tuesday morning’s Sports Authority Board meeting that an updated cost could be available in the late fall.
Knoxville and Knox County have pledged to pay up to $65 million, and the state has kicked in $13.5 million. Smokies owner Randy Boyd has committed $5.8 million to construction and cost overruns, and promised to bring in $142 million in private money to build 630,000 square feet of restaurants, retail and residences around the stadium. All these commitments were made before the projected costs soared this year.
“Uncertainty over prices and uncertainty over details of construction and plans are a bad combination when it comes to accurate bidding and accurate pricing,” Kirchhofer said.
For now, the design team has a final plan and is working to produce construction documents that will reflect the changes and help determine a new cost. Current site work will continue during the process. Water and sewer line relocations are underway.
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Dirt could be moving as early as next week, with heavy construction equipment coming to the site along James White Parkway for rough grading work, Kirchhofer said. This work will cause street closures and will begin before the development team gets a guaranteed maximum price for the project.
Virtual tour shows new stadium plan
A virtual tour of the updated stadium plan revealed some of the most notable changes, including the removal of some second-floor spaces that partially would have served for retail and team offices. This change represents “thousands of square feet of scope reduction,” Kirchhofer said.
The new plan proposes team offices move to a leased space within the Beauford Delaney Building, a yet-to-be-built private residential development adjacent to the stadium. The nine-story condo building previously was priced at $45 million.
While second-floor suites and party decks in the stadium have been “tightened up,” Kirchhofer said, the current plan still calls for 12 suites.
The tour revealed some proposed “character pieces,” including a Tennessee-shaped scoreboard. Both team bullpens would be located in left field, near a group seating and picnic area.
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The board also got an updated look at outward-facing retail and restaurant space that would be built into the stadium but only accessible from the street. That means these commercial spaces would be available to the public year-round, not just on game days.
What is the stadium timeline?
- Water and sewer relocation is underway.
- Rough grading is expected to start in the next two weeks and will go through December. This will result in street closures.
- The design team is preparing construction documents, which will continue through October.
- The remaining utility work, such as electric, gas and additional water and sewer, will begin in October.
- Bidding and the generation of a maximum price contract will go from November to mid-January.
- Construction is planned to start in January.
- Construction will be competed in late 2024 or early 2025.
- The Smokies will begin playing baseball in the stadium April 2025.
How we got here
Rising costs of materials and supply chain issues have altered the projected cost of the stadium.
Previously, the Tennessee Smokies were supposed to begin playing in the new stadium in 2024. However, the team sent out a statement in April saying the deadline was tight because of a “volatile construction market.” Opening day is now planned for the 2025 season. In the meantime, the team will continue to play in Kodak.
Workers have been preparing the site with water and sewer lines since May.
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The Sports Authority approved the project and has been keeping tabs on the rising costs of materials such as steel, asphalt and aluminum, as well as shortages for materials like cement. It is made up of seven directors recommended by the county and city mayors and jointly appointed by the Knoxville City Council and Knox County Commission.
Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve increased short-term interest rates, meaning the Sports Authority will pay more on the $65 million in bonds issued by city and county government.
The annual debt payment on the public commitment was expected to be $3.2 million, for both the city and county. However, the team’s rent payment and payment in lieu of taxes were projected to cut that down to about $1.5 million if the cost remained at $74.5 million.
The stadium is estimated to bring in $480,000 annually in sales tax revenues, which will be split by the city and county.