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Minor league baseball not the same out of Knox County: Teague

Chuck Cavalaris, an award-winning reporter and columnist formerly with the News Sentinel, has joined farragutpress as a bi-weekly columnist with his popular “Ask Chuck” column. See a more detailed introduction on page 1. Cavalaris can be reached for questions or comments, which will be addressed in future “Ask Chuck” columns, at: He can also be reached with questions at 865-769-9295.

It's been more than six years and former Knox County commissioner Ralph Teague still wakes up with a feeling of regret at least once every week. He continues to mourn the death of minor league baseball in Knoxville.

After being snubbed in a close vote, the Tennessee Smokies moved about 20 miles to the east and built a $19 million stadium that Sevierville calls home. Bass Pro Shops has agreed to join the starting lineup just off I-40 and exit 407. An upscale restaurant is in the works, too.

Meanwhile, Bill Meyer Stadium was demolished a couple of years ago amid safety concerns and soaring maintenance costs. Built in the 1950s, it followed several other ballparks at this site. The athletic field has been maintained at a location where baseball has been played since the 1920s.

Teague just shakes his head when asked if things could have turned out differently.

"I had nine votes to build a new stadium in Knox County and we needed 10," he said. "I just couldn't get that last one."

The issue became a political hot potato between city and county officials. The outcome ranks as one of Teague's few regrets during his public-service career (1980-98).

"I felt sure there was a compromise in Knox County that would have worked for everybody," he said. "Letting the team pack up and move to Sevier County was not the way to go."

It certainly didn't do Farragut residents any favors. They might want to take in a minor-league ballgame, but decide to stay home because of driving time and the seemingly endless hassle of perpetual interstate construction.

Teague resides in Powell and felt the ballpark needed to be closer to downtown. He endorsed a location a few blocks from where the Convention Center has been built. A strong case could be made for a site near The Old City. Another possibility was the former Coster Shop railway yard off I-275.

The Pellissippi Parkway emerged as the prime candidate -- until some residents of a subdivision spoke out. Their concerns included property values, increased traffic and stadium lights and noise at night.

Looking back, would it have been better to build a multi-use facility closer to West Knox County's population base?

"A few people said it would downgrade the value of their homes," Teague said. "But the people we heard from didn't even live that close to where the ballpark was going to be. If anything, this would have upgraded land values. It would have been a boost for our community as a whole."

Gone but not forgotten, the Tennessee Smokies were co-champions of the Class AA Southern League last season. After two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, the team is part of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

There's an excellent chance the Chicago Cubs will become the Tennessee Smokies parent club in 2007. If this happens, perhaps the 45-minute drive from Farragut will take place more often. Who knows? The perpetual Interstate construction project in Knoxville might even be halfway finished by then.


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