Executive Director Paul Smith wants the Finley Stadium complex to be known for more than just UTC football and he has started work on many new ideas for use of the facility.
This year contract revisions have been made with the Chattanooga Football Club which is consolidating area soccer teams. Mr. Smith wants the stadium to feel like home to the organization and is forming a relationship with the group rather than just maintaining a tenant agreement.
The football club will pay the stadium $30,000 for the year, which will provide a practice time and a storage facility. They will share parking revenue, concession and beer sales with the stadium. Gross revenue is expected to increase from $20,000 last year to $50,000 with this new arrangement. Mr. Smith said the atmosphere at the soccer matches will be similar to a Lookouts game with roving sales of beverages.
The Chattanooga Market also figures into the overall plan. Opening day of the market saw a six percent increase with 13,000 people attending. There will also be a mid-week market on Wednesday afternoons at the pavilion, from 4-7 p.m. beginning tomorrow.
There are many other events that have and will be taking place at the various areas around the stadium complex weekly and there are no open weekends from now to the end of the fiscal year, said Mr. Smith. But still the most important thing is to put people in the seats. Another goal he has is for the stadium to host three music events yearly, but there are no concrete plans as of now.
This year the stadium corporation is over budget due to several one-time expenses that will not be repeated next year. Freeze damage was significant costing $13,000 in repairs. There was a dual payroll and attorney fees associated with the transition of past executive director Merrill Eckstein leaving and the new director coming on board. These extra expenses caused the corporation to be over budget and for $30,000 to be moved from the savings account into the checking account.
Mr. Smith told the board that he expects to come out even at the end of the year, and to return the $30,000 to savings. Plans are to lower expenses and create new sources of revenue. An audit has been done to find savings in utility costs. Electric service in January was $16,000 and in February was $15,000, more than they have ever been in the past. The audit discovered that meters could be turned off in the locker rooms during times that they are not used which would save $4,000-$5,000 a month. Small heaters will be used instead to prevent freeze damage. The goal is to have EPB bills average less than $10,000 each month. Another example found in the audit will result in saving $4,000 annually by turning off a water meter that was found to be unused the past five years where minimum charges had been in effect.
New revenue will be generated by the stadium taking over concession sales. Mr. Smith has hired Hailey Bates, formerly the food and beverage and facilities rental manager with the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX Theater. The stadium will now provide concessions to the stadium club, stadium boxes and for special events.
Mr. Smith was also given approval to move forward with obtaining beer and alcohol licenses. By handling alcohol sales in house, the amount made from these sales is expected to double the share that was received from the catering service used in the past. UTC will be the one to decide if alcohol sales take place at their events. Before the permit applications are made, it was agreed that Mr. Smith would consult with an expert who is independent from insurance providers to review a risk analysis for the stadium and for the directors.
Event revenue has also been restructured. Negotiations have yielded a 50 percent increase in the rental structure that the Chattanooga Market will pay going forward. Also increased is the rental rate for non-profits which will increase from $1,000 to $1,200 plus an additional $300 clean up fee.
Another topic of discussion at the meeting was whether to allow a cell phone tower to be constructed on stadium property. Wireless Properties has proposed building a tower in the form of a 150-foot flag pole with the antennae inside the pole. The 50 by 50 foot area at the base of the tower holding large structures for each carrier’s equipment will be surrounded by a wire fence with inserted slats. The parking lot will lose two RV parking places but the tower will not take away any space for cars. Mr. Smith was given approval to negotiate an appropriate rental rate from Wireless Properties after clarifying which providers will use that tower.
Currently one skybox is used for office space that could be rented at the current rate of $6,000. That office, now being used by Mr. Smith and Ms. Bates, will need to be relocated. The lowest bid to convert the area into an office is $25,000. Another space available is in the pavilion building across the street from the stadium, which could be made into an office for $5,000. Board member Gordon Davenport Jr. made the suggestion to use that space temporarily until other capital needs have been met, acknowledging that the ideal location would be inside the stadium and next to the state of the art kitchen. In a vote of three to one, with Mr. Davenport voting no and Ryan Crimmons abstaining, the motion passed to use the space on the first floor of the stadium.
There are now two available rooms for skybox rentals - one is ready to go and the other will require only around $1,500 of work.
Due diligence has been done concerning replacement of the artificial turf, said Mike Davis, the board member in charge of capital improvements. He asked for and received board approval to enter into contract negotiations once the best option has been identified. He said that UTC Athletic Director David Blackburn would be included in the decisions.
Because there are so many new things going on with the stadium complex, Chairman of the Board Bryan Patten told the board that he would call another meeting before the end of the fiscal year.