Your Tennessee Smokies apparel will soon be retro gear.
Team owner Randy Boyd, whose vision for a downtown Knoxville multiuse stadium complex has been approved, told Knox News the minor league baseball team will change its name to the Knoxville Smokies as part of its move to the Old City.
Smokies CEO Doug Kirchhofer said Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs recommended the name change about a year ago.
Now, “Knoxville” must be included in the team name as part of the lease agreement for the $74.5 million ballpark. That agreement is scheduled to be signed later this month.
The Double-A Chicago Cubs affiliate will remain the Tennessee Smokies until it begins playing downtown, slated for spring 2024. The team has been called the Tennessee Smokies since moving to Sevier County in 2000.
Changing the Smokies nickname was never considered — just the geographical designation, Boyd said.
“It does identify us with a certain place in the world,” he said. “There’s only one (Great) Smoky Mountains National Park.”
They have no plans to change team colors or logos. If that becomes an option, Kirchhofer said, the process would take place over the next few years.
The ballpark will be the centerpiece of a development on Old City property that already belongs to Boyd, who is donating the land for the stadium to the city and county.
Boyd also has promised to bring at least $142 million in private money to build 630,000 square feet of restaurants, retail shops and residences around the stadium.
“We don’t really see it as an end of an era,” Kirchhofer said. “If you look at the Smokies history, it goes back over a century. I think this is just going to be a continuation of an enjoyable entertainment experience for residents and visitors to East Tennessee.”
The newly formed One Knoxville Sporting Club also plans to play its home soccer games at the stadium, which will be configured to allow for other events.
While the team has been known by other nicknames, including the K-Jays and Knox Sox, the Smokies nickname has remained for most of the team’s 100-plus-year history.
Baseball is about tradition, Boyd said, and resurrecting the Knoxville name keeps that tradition going.
“First and foremost, there’s some civic pride,” Boyd said. “It would be Knoxville’s team. We want to identify with the city that hosts us. If it’s the Tennessee Smokies, it doesn’t really have a specific place.”
Kirchhofer said naming a team after the host city is almost universal when the team is located in a downtown area. The Nashville Sounds and Memphis Redbirds are two examples.
“I just hope it is indicative of reestablishing that connection that maybe was lost 20-some years ago,” Kirchhofer said. “The reality is that a very large portion of the Smokies fan base in attendance has continued to be made up of Knox County and Knoxville residents.”