Finley Stadium/Davenport Field is a very different stadium than it was five years ago, said Chairman of the Board Bryan Patten at the directors meeting Tuesday afternoon. Part of the success is due to the dramatic improvement of the UTC football team over the past few seasons. There is also an opportunity to expand the use of the facility with the Chattanooga Futbol Club. Plans are in the works to pursue the use of the stadium as an entertainment venue and the Sunday Market at the Pavilion has been a huge success. Additionally, there was a recent announcement that a new apartment complex will be built across the street from Finley Stadium. In all, Mr. Patten said it is no longer thought of as just “Home of the Mocs” football stadium, but is now considered to be more of a community complex.
Executive Director Merrill Eckstein presented the financial report for the first four months of the fiscal year. “Virtually all revenue items are up in relation to last year,” he said, except for the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau which provided $10,000 less than in 2011-2012. Skybox revenue has increased partially due to the increased yearly maintenance fee paid per seat for the five skyboxes that are leased on a year-to-year basis. The rental and maintenance fees for both the “homeowners” and yearly leased skyboxes totaled $63,800 for the first quarter. Additionally, two skyboxes are available on an individual game basis and were rented several times providing $3,800 of additional income.
The stadium hosted several successful events that have contributed to gains in revenue, in addition to the good attendance of the Mocs games. On July 7, an International soccer event drew 10,000 along with the stadium’s portion of concessions and parking associated with it. The High School Jamboree had two good days of weather and the McCallie–Baylor game was held at Finley this year with an attendance of 11,000.
Another increase from the previous year came from the revenue sharing agreement with UTC that pays the stadium a portion when advertising revenues exceed a certain amount. The stadium’s portion year to date is $6,310.
On the expense side, $10,000 more on cleaning services has been spent due to striping the north parking lot and pressure washing. Utilities are down for now, but an increase is expected after the first of the year due to rate increases for water and power. Some old equipment was replaced this quarter for a cost of $6,000.
Mr. Patten told the board that he optimistically expects to get contributions this year of around $75,000. "We will try to make new contacts through Friends of Finley and will inform the donors with a letter to inform them of the accomplishments and successes that have occurred this year, he said.
Mr. Eckstein said, “Overall, I am very pleased with our current position and anticipate our continuing to operate in the black as we move forward.” The budget shows a surplus for the first four months of $33,128.
Ideas for additional uses of the facility were discussed at length by the board members. Mr. Eckstein has been talking with a business that manages parking. Since CARTA has taken over downtown metered parking enforcement, people have been looking for alternative places to leave cars for extended hours. The idea of shuttle parking is in the initial stages for the lots around Finley.
An exciting possibility is use of the stadium as an entertainment venue. A very professional promoter is interested in bringing a concert to the arena that has the possibility of attracting around 7,000-12,000 people and would draw from outside of Chattanooga. Mr. Eckstein told the board that the stadium and the interested party have agreed that the stadium would be responsible for materials to cover and protect the turf from debris and wear, while the promoter would provide decking required, to deliver and set up the stage. If the event is successful, this promoter would be interested in doing other concerts at the stadium. The end of April is a target date for this event.
Mr. Patten said in the last few years, the emergence of the Chattanooga Futbol Club has given the stadium a new dimension. Krue Brock, head of the club, came to the meeting to give his perspective for using the football stadium for soccer. He told the board that Chattanooga is a soccer city and it is an up-and-coming sport. Finley Stadium is the right size for crowds that major soccer matches would be expected to bring, he said. However, based on comments he heard from coaches of two exhibition events that were held here this year, the field is dangerous for soccer players since they play a lot on the edges, and the south edge of Davenport Field between the football and soccer lines is unstable. He also said the football lines are distracting for a soccer player.
The Astroturf surface has a life expectancy of around 12-15 years and has been in place now for eight. When replacement is needed, the board discussed investigating the use of solid green versus the permanently striped carpet. A non-permanent paint would need to be used to stripe the field for football or soccer. The costs associated with striping and removal of paint will be investigated. The base material that has caused problems with an uneven field is being replaced when repairs are needed.
Another use for the stadium that was discussed was for CrossFit games, which are a new concept. There is a strong CrossFit community in Chattanooga now, said Mr. Brock.