Knoxville council asks state to siphon off $65m in sales taxes to pay for Smokies stadium

The Knoxville city council voted 8-1 last night to ask the state legislature to create a sales tax increment financing district to siphon off state and local sales taxes from a swath of downtown and put them toward paying off a $65 million Tennessee Smokies stadium.

And … really, that’s about all I’ve got on this one, given that the only news outlet that seems to have reported on the council vote seems to be the dreaded WBIR. How big a swath of downtown? Has anyone done a study to confirm that the sales-tax money would actually be new revenue, and not just taxes on spending relocated from elsewhere in the city or state? (Moving baseball spending from the Knoxville suburbs to downtown Knoxville seems an especially zero-sum prospect for state legislators, whose approval is required for this plan.) What are the plan’s prospects in the legislature? And so on.

I’m getting tired of posts here that just complain about how bad local news reporting has gotten, as I’m sure you have too, but sometimes that’s the only option — I don’t have the resources to independently research every sports subsidy deal ongoing right now, though I’ll see what more I can find out about this one. I’m deeply concerned about how the gutting of journalism is making it impossible for democracy to function, because it’s increasingly hard for anyone to tell what even to call their elected representatives to yell at them about. And no, the rise of a few Substack celebrity pundits isn’t going to help much with getting city council hearings covered properly.

Anyway, tl;dr: Handing over $65 million in tax money to the University of Tennessee’s president/invisible dog fence plutocrat took another step closer to reality last night. All else is ¯_(ツ)_/¯.

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7 comments on “Knoxville council asks state to siphon off $65m in sales taxes to pay for Smokies stadium

  1. Nice! Punting the football to the Tennessee legislature. Any tax increase (TIF) suffered by Knoxville taxpayers, Councilpersons don’t have to take ownership in their re-election campaigns. They can blame the legislature. As fine a misdirection play as there is!

    1. Well, it includes state taxes, so the council has zero jurisdiction over them. All they can do is ask the state to please send them $65m.

    2. From a TIF district in City of Knoxville, correct? Wouldn’t any shortfall in the city’s budget, specifically General Fund, made up by the loss of local sales tax revenue either 1) need to be made up or 2) result in a reduction of city services.

      1. A state TIF district in the city, yes. And yes, sales tax losses would need to be made up somehow — that’s why it’s key to know whether these would really be sales tax revenues new to the city, or just cannibalized from existing tax revenues elsewhere in Knoxville.

  2. city council agenda says 1/4 mile radius around the stadium, which is a mostly industrial area. so presumably they’re banking on the commercial redevelopment coming through

    1. Right, so if the people spending their money in the stadium district would normally be spending it out of town, then it’s a net gain. If they would normally be spending it in town, then it’s just rearranging the deck chairs, and giving a bunch of the chairs to the Smokies owner.

      And from the state’s perspective, there’s no gain at all from moving spending around, unless they expect a whole lot more people to drive over from Kentucky if the stadium is downtown instead of in the burbs.

  3. Local station WVLT would much rather post a near-daily story about Dolly Parton than covering potential tax consequences to Knoxville taxpayers.

    If WVLT could only tie the Smokies stadium to something Dolly,……….

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