Hilarious Savannah Bananas Weigh in on Rumored Smokies Stadium Takeover

smokies stadium entrance

The soon-to-be-empty Smokies Stadium could be a ripe opportunity for the right buyer (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

If the Savannah Bananas are keeping their eyes peeled for expansion opportunities, Smokies Stadium would be ideal

The end of an era is quickly approaching as the Tennessee Smokies abandons its home in Kodak and returns to Knoxville. I have a long history covering Smokies baseball. I wrote about the move from Knoxville to Sevier County for a class project. I also remember games in old Bill Meyer Stadium and the K-Jays as they were known.

But even with their triumphant return to Randy Boyd’s Immaculate House of Baseball under construction in East Knoxville, the question of what will become of the Smokies home for the last quarter century? Could it be a wrecking ball? Or is a more creative future in store? Maybe taking inspiration from or even partnering with a baseball phenomenon that is sweeping the Nation? Could the Savannah Bananas bring its incredibly popular version of Banana-ball to East Tennessee? 

The Savannah Bananas, an exhibition team based in Georgia, took an old former minor-league stadium and built a national phenomenon. Today the Bananas – with their wild antics – sell out their home games and a national tour in major cities across the U.S. With demand so high, is it possible the Bananas could expand to Kodak and form the beginnings of a league? For this article, we spoke to a Bananas representative and asked that very question.  

Who are the Bananas?

The Bananas are nothing short of a baseball sensation. Eschewing the more staid elements of the National Pastime, the Bananas bring a Harlem Globetrotter energy to games in historic Grayson Stadium. There are elaborate dances – which often include coaches and the umpire. Additionally, there are intricate walk-up routines that can feature a marching band and more. There is also a pitcher on stilts

It’s silly and fun and enthusiastic. A Bananas game is part circus, part performance art and all baseball. It follows in the grand tradition of Bill Veeck, the promoter willing to try anything to get a crowd and attention to the game.

Banana ball has captured the attention of sports fans across the country. In addition to the sold-out home games, the Banana’s barn-storming tour is nationwide and sold out. In Indianapolis, for instance, you must win a Taylor Swift-like lottery just for the right to buy tickets.   

The tradition of minor-league baseball in Savannah goes back nearly 100 years to the Savannah Indians but struggled to be successful. Starting with the Savannah Senators in 1968 through the Savannah Sand Gnats in 2015, a variety of Minor League squads filled the stadium every year. Then, in 2016, the Sand Gnats were officially swatted and thus entered the Bananas. For their first seasons, the Bananas were a collegiate summer baseball team in the Coastal Plain League.

However, as their alternate games featuring Banana Ball became more popular, ownership leaned into the Globetrotter-esque version of it all. They formed opponents like the Party Animals and the Firefighters – like the Globetrotters’ traveling opponents the Washington Generals – and began taking the nation by storm. 

What’s happening to Smokies Stadium? 

Randy Boyd is taking the team back to Knoxville to play in a palatial new facility being built near downtown in East Knoxville – not that far from Bill Meyer Stadium. The new facility will have apartments and restaurants and be an attraction year-round. It will be a massive upgrade from Smokies Stadium and a boon for East Knoxville and Boyd. 

But that leaves the question of the Smokies Stadium’s future. The stadium and its land are owned in partnership by Sevierville and Sevier County. The most frequent prediction for the future is that will knock it down, pave it over and build a parking lot. The Cherokee Tribe – which is building a massive park across the interstate – also owns land above Smokies Stadium. The best guess is eventually – maybe even decades from now – there will be a casino that will need parking. 

However, could it be something more? Could baseball continue to be played in Smokies Stadium?  I’ve heard Boyd Sports wouldn’t mind putting another team in the stadium, maybe a Class A team or something. If it could work for a Class A team, why not an expansion exhibition team like the one that’s breaking records in Savannah? 

The Smokies Baseball Field in Kodak TN
Are the Savannah Bananas keeping their eyes peeled for expansion opportunities? (attempted banana joke) (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

Are the Bananas considering expansion in Kodak? 

To be clear, the Bananas would never leave Savannah but with so much demand for the product, would a permanent home for one of its rival teams be out of the question? Could Smokies Stadium house the Firefighters, the Party Animals or another TBD rival team? Look, it’s not a stretch to see the vision. The Bananas are bringing their product to the masses across the country and are unable to meet the massive demand. Games in Savannah are sold out and Savannah isn’t the most accessible location on the East Coast.

Why not give the people another option? An option in one of the tourism capitals of the world? An option within relatively easy driving distance of millions of potential customers. Think of it this way, metropolitan areas within a nine-hour drive of the Smokies include Chicago, Indy, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C. and St. Louis. That doesn’t include Southern destinations like Charlotte, Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, and Memphis. 

And while I’m sure the barn-storming tour is quite profitable, it’s easier to take the people to the mountains, than the other way around. So, I reached out to a Bananas spokesperson and tried to gauge the organization’s temperature on expansion in the Smokies. The answer? Expansion outside of Savannah is not on the immediate horizon. 

“We actually have three teams with our third starting in May,” the spokesperson said. “Right now, we’re focusing on building these teams and aren’t looking to expand just yet outside of Savannah, GA.”

“We actually have three teams with our third starting in May,” the spokesperson said. “Right now, we’re focusing on building these teams and aren’t looking to expand just yet outside of Savannah, GA.”

– Representative for the Savannah Bananas

It’s a vision whose time has not yet come. The Smokies are heading to Knoxville. And the Bananas aren’t expanding out of Savannah and the world is a cold, dark place. What will happen to the Smokies Stadium isn’t now known, but the future parking lot remains near the top of the list. 

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