The East Ridge City Council, despite some reluctance and a host of questions, on Thursday night voted to give a one-year lease with an option for a second year to four Chattanooga area select soccer clubs - Chattanooga Football Club, North River, Redoubt and East Ridge - that have joined to form a single organization.
Councilman Denny Manning was opposed, and Vice Mayor Jim Bethune initially passed. However, the lease was approved by Mayor Brent Lambert and Councilmen Larry Sewell and Marc Gravitt following a lengthy discussion.
Council members said they wanted another week until the next regular meeting when Attorney Hal North could be present, but Matt Yelton, who is heading up the combined select club, said, "Another week is a week we can't lose in the planning stage."
Councilman Gravitt said some East Ridge citizens are strongly against the lease, but he said, "This is only for one year. If it doesn't work out, we don't have to do it anymore."
However, Jack Skelton said Chattanooga Football Club has the option to continue after a year, but East Ridge does not have the option of ending it if the club has lived up to all the terms.
Mr. Skelton told the council that the group had other options for a main field and would pursue them if the council balked.
The council is told the city will make $34,000 more than it now does from select soccer - from $21,000 to $55,000.
Mr. Yelton said with the infusion of select players, there will still be room for recreation league soccer players as well.
Council members several times spoke of a bad experience with a similar lease earlier that ended when the East Ridge Soccer Association carried off much of the soccer equipment amid a bitter parting. Stump Martin, recreation director, said he inherited that ill feeling, and it was one of the toughest years of his career.
But he said he has been proud that a new and successful soccer program has been built at Camp Jordan over the past three years.
He said he felt that having the select program at East Ridge would help with the recreation program.
City Manager Andrew Hyatt said he had a preference for recreational soccer, saying some cannot afford the $600 required of select soccer. But he said it was a plus that the group dropped the request for a three-year lease to one year.
One of the pluses is that the goal is to have four select soccer tournaments, each expected to bring 1,500-2,000 out of town people that will spend money in East Ridge, he noted.
The city also receives 33 percent of concession sales at the park.
The select program is set to start May 1 using five fields at Camp Jordan.
Yelton will serve as director of coaching. He had been running the East Ridge Football Club and is the head coach at Lee University.
CFC Academy will hold tryouts during the first week of June at Finley Stadium, Redoubt, Camp Jordan and North River Soccer complexes.