(The Center Square) – A deal that allows Knox County to use most of the sales tax from a new minor league baseball stadium in Knoxville and a development surrounding it to go toward paying stadium debt was approved Wednesday by the Tennessee Senate.
A day after the House approved House Bill 1204, the Senate adopted the bill, 27-0. It now will go to Gov. Bill Lee for consideration.
The bill promises more than $100 million in private funds will be spent for a mixed-use development surrounding the stadium, which is expected to cost $65 million to build and is scheduled to open July 1, 2023.
The stadium’s primary tenant will be the Chicago Cubs’ minor league affiliate Tennessee Smokies, which will pay nearly $1 million annually in rent, but the stadium also will host concerts and a soccer team.
The complex is expected to bring 3,000 jobs to the area.
The first 1.5% of sales tax will be sent to the state for education, Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, said, but the remainder of the sales tax revenue from the stadium and the area within a quarter-mile radius around it will go toward paying for the stadium.
Massey said the stadium was estimated to have a $1 billion economic impact over the next 30 years.
“I believe it is one of the top five redevelopment projects in Knox County since I was born,” she said.
The estimated $142 million mixed-use development surrounding the stadium will include 630,000 square feet of residential space, restaurants and retail in the ballpark vicinity.
“This is unique from any other legislation we’ve ever passed where the owner of the Smokies is guaranteeing $100 million in private development around that stadium that will create those 3,000 jobs and have a tremendous economic impact in a blighted area that has looked that way since the ‘70s,” Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, said Tuesday when the bill was discussed on the House floor. “So this is a significant move forward for the East Knoxville community, and it will do for East Knoxville what East Towne Mall and Turkey Creek have done for West Knoxville.”
Massey said Wednesday that Knox County has a memorandum of understanding with a soccer team that will play at the complex, which also will host concerts. The sports authority in Knox County will manage the stadium.
“It will be open 365 days per year,” she said. “The general public can go in when no ticketed event is taking place.”