BMA Candidate Series Day Two: New baseball stadium

Matthew Lane • Apr 27, 2019 at 7:30 AM

KINGSPORT — More than three years have passed since the birth of the One Kingsport initiative, a five-year roadmap aimed at making the Model City the premiere place to live, work and raise a family in the Tri-Cities.

The biggest project to come out of that initiative has been the idea of building a minor league baseball stadium at the old General Shale property. A feasibility study is currently underway and is expected to be completed soon.

In the second of a five-part series, the Times-News asked the candidates running for mayor and aldermen in the upcoming city election their thoughts about the proposal. Here are their replies:


I think it is great we are doing a feasibility study first. Before the city starts any large undertakings, such as the construction of a baseball stadium, we need to make sure we look into what those projects could bring us. Specifically how many jobs they can bring. Without knowing what the study says and the exact cost it is rash to say if we should pursue it or not. On the outside looking in, I think a large park downtown that could host Fun Fest and other outdoor events would be beneficial to our city. We should also look at other cheaper options. I believe the city would benefit greatly from a venue for concerts and events such as a renovated State Theatre. After all, if we can get similar results for less money, we have more to spend on other important projects, education or infrastructure.


The people of Kingsport do not want their taxpayer money wasted on a frivolous baseball stadium when we can’t even sell out games at the existing Mets stadium. What we decide to build at the General Shale site will define downtown Kingsport for years to come, and it needs to be something that will be used all year round. Any time you use taxpayer money, it has to be a win for the community, and you should treat it with the care that you would use when spending your own family’s money.


One crucial question that we need to answer is what the economic impact would be if a multipurpose venue was decided on? Another question is does the venue bring more opportunities to Kingsport? I would like to pursue a private/public partnership if a venue was ever planned. After changes to the law in 2017, this property is now classified as an opportunity zone. An opportunity zone allows potential investors to invest money by way of capital gains, with tax-saving investments going back into the community. I feel that if developed with the assistance of both public and private elements, this property would make Kingsport a destination for many wonderful events and activities that are currently being hosted elsewhere.


This is a touchy topic for me. I think the stadium would be good for our city. With that being said, I would also include or agree to putting nice soccer fields at this location or agree to put some in another location with great access to our downtown area. We have a lot of prominent soccer parents here in Kingsport that own their own businesses, medical and dental offices that also give back to our great city that would love to have soccer fields.

I have nothing against baseball at all. It’s the great American sport, but we need more for our kids. We also have adult league soccer games in Kingsport and I believe we could get some semi-pro soccer games scheduled here that would bring people all the way from Nashville to Kingsport. We want people to come and see what Kingsport has to offer, right? We want them to come back or possibly move here. Let’s just make some common sense moves and build something great for everyone. Kingsport has a habit of catering to a select few it seems ... i.e. bicycle lanes, which I must thank you for. It increased my rear end collision accidents.


I will need to see the study and think about if we need another park. I would rather put the money into the streets.


The top proposal to come out of the ONE Kingsport community visioning effort was a large outdoor venue probably located on the General Shale property. This project would have multiple parts and would be expensive if done well. To maximize the versatility and use of such a facility, the idea to have a baseball field as part of the facility evolved. At this time, the BMA has requested studies to understand the potential costs to achieve that vision. These include:

· Design and preliminary cost estimate for baseball stadium/outdoor venue.

· Design and preliminary cost estimate for a walking bridge over the railroad tracks.

· Preliminary cost estimate for extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive into the site.

· Upgrades of water, sewer, and other infrastructure needed for the site.

The site also has sufficient room for housing, businesses or other uses which need to be considered. A fairly recent development is that the site is in a federally designated Opportunity Zone which would provide significant tax incentives for developers. The potential for significant private/public partnerships is also a real possibility and needs further study.


The property should be sold and developed by somebody else. The government at any level should stay out of the construction business. We have a perfectly good minor league stadium in Hunter Wright stadium.


I have not been convinced that the city of Kingsport needs another baseball stadium. However, I am in favor of building the Miracle Fields for our handicapped children. There is currently a study that would better define the uses of the property. I.e. ... outdoor venue for Fun Fest activities, etc.


This property has the potential to be a great addition to downtown Kingsport. Very few cities have 95 undeveloped acres in their downtown. It is true that one of the ideas that has been talked about is an Outdoor Venue for our downtown. The Times-News did an online poll a few years ago and the Outdoor Venue was the top item of what the citizens wanted for Kingsport.

I believe this property should be developed in a way that gives the most value to our city. As elected officials, we are to make sure we do what is in the best interest of the citizens of Kingsport. My campaign motto is “Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future.” Kingsport is called The Model City because it was planned. I believe we can Honor the Past by continuing to develop a plan for this property and Embrace our Future by making sure it brings value to Kingsport.

We need to ask ourselves questions. What would bring the most value? What would get the most use? What would enhance the city? What does our region need? We should never be afraid to ask questions, and we should also encourage the citizens to ask questions.


This idea emerged from a group of activists who gathered at MeadowView during working hours and made a wish list of how to spend taxpayer money. In the real world, building a second minor league stadium on prime industrial property at a cost of at least $12 million has practically no support. This is simply another example of misplaced priorities regarding public spending. Since the city has already purchased the property, I would be open to other, more economical uses including conversion to a soccer field, use as an outdoor venue or playground, or even sale by the city for development by a job-creating business. I’m running for mayor to provide principled, practical leadership because I believe priorities are a precondition for progress. We’ve got to get back to basics in city government, and that starts with paving the potholes. If elected, I will hold town hall meetings every quarter outside of working hours so everyone can gather and give input. A mayor cannot outsource concern or delegate listening.


This is a good example as to why we must establish a vision and develop strategies to support it. Does Kingsport’s vision support, as a strategy, the building of a new minor league baseball stadium? If we have limited resources does this project rise to the top of our priorities list? These, and many more, are the types of questions that must be answered prior to taking on a project of this magnitude. Sometimes a “feasibility study” is no more than justification for a self-fulfilling prophecy. The consultant learns the will of the client and then builds a rational argument to support the client’s position. I have some real concerns about this project and would not pursue it until those questions are answered.