The Haslam family will donate $35 million to Knoxville's Lakeshore Park, which will be used to improve baseball fields, soccer fields and other amenities outlined in the park's master plan.
The Haslams' gift will be used to bring part of the park's master plan, which was approved by Knoxville City Council last fall, to reality. Construction is scheduled to begin in November and could take two years to complete.
Susan "Dee" Haslam presented the gift at the park Monday on behalf of the family. She is president of the Lakeshore Park Conservancy Board of Directors. "Green open spaces are vital for our children and adults alike, and conservation of spaces like Lakeshore are necessary to preserve the beauty and natural resources of this area," she said.
Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said the West Knoxville park, located along the Tennessee River in the Lyons View neighborhood, is the most-visited in the city.
The East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane opened on the property in 1886 and was later renamed the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute. The park opened across 60 acres of the hospital property in 1995, according to a news release, and the hospital closed its doors nearly 20 years later.
In addition to being the city's most-visited park, it's also the largest, sitting on 185 acres of land with gorgeous view of the Smokies.
“(Lakeshore Park is) very unique in that we are the only recreational park in Knoxville that is run by a conservancy,” Julieanne Foy, executive director of Lakeshore Park Conservancy, previously told Knox News. “We’re a city park, but we run and manage the park.
"That’s not to say the city doesn’t provide support.”
The Knoxville City Council approved a park master plan in October 2020, according to a news release.
However, the first phase of renovations took place earlier with the HGTV Overlook opening in May 2020 following a $3 million gift from Scripps Networks Interactive.
Foy told Knox News most Phase 2 renovations will take place in the "athletic zone." The park's master plan also includes a natural zone and civic zone, where renovations will take place during future phases.
Phase 2 plans call for concentrating athletic facilities on the south side of the park, with four new Little League baseball fields and a smaller challenger field. The soccer fields will stay at their current location but will be updated.
The park plans on adding a "mini pitch" to the athletic area for younger soccer players, Foy said, and the fields will be equipped with new lights that create less light pollution.
A new playground will be constructed between the soccer and baseball fields, she said, and a "sports green" will provide a hillside area for trophy ceremonies and other events.
Concentrating sports on one side of the park should concentrate game-day traffic, Foy previously told Knox News. Plans are in place to improve navigation throughout the park by widening roads and adding sidewalks.
Two baseball fields have already been removed from the park. The remaining four fields will be removed once new fields are complete, Foy said.
Grading work for the new baseball fields will provide dirt to be used in constructing the sculptural mound on the southeastern side of the park. The mound could include seating on top and would hide the nearby water treatment facility.
The mound also will act as a natural amphitheater, which could be a spot for concerts and events.
The following family members contributed to the Haslams' $35 million gift:
“When I think of the places in Knoxville that make it special, Lakeshore Park absolutely is one that comes to mind,” Bill Haslam, former Knoxville mayor and Tennessee governor, said in a news release. “It’s beautiful, but what makes it really terrific is how the space serves people."
Dee Haslam said she is excited about the park's mission of providing more than just a place for physical recreation. The master plan is designed with mental and cultural health in mind, too.
She believes renovations to the park can "strengthen families, bring neighbors together and be a source of pride for this great city."
Knox News previously reported on the full master plan, which includes additional playgrounds, amphitheaters and outdoor exercise areas.
The natural zone would include an area of grass grown into a meadow, which would support wildlife and reduce the park's carbon footprint. The HGTV Overlook is included in the proposed civic zone.
The park and trails will remain open during construction, Foy said. However, some park amenities may be limited at times.
Lakeshore Park is located at 6410 S. Northshore Drive. For more information, visit lakeshoreparkknoxville.org.Back to In the Press
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