Finley Stadium Seeing New Activity; $600,000 Campaign Started For New Turf, Other Improvements

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - by Gail Perry

The Finley Stadium Board of Directors was told of all the activity that has nothing to do with football which takes place at the stadium every weekend. The field is now being used on a regular basis for practice, games and soccer clinics with a new partner, the Chattanooga Football Club.

This is a great partnership, said Executive Director Paul Smith, and a new way of bringing in revenue at this time of the year. The facilities are also being used as a gathering place for races and fundraisers and the Stadium Club for catered events.

The new budget has money designated for marketing the stadium to attract even more events, especially those that would put people in seats that will buy food. “It’s exciting to see what is going on here,” said board member Ricki Pierce.

Another new source of revenue will come from concessions and catering services that are now being done in-house. Hayley Bates came to Finley Stadium from the Tennessee Aquarium where she was in charge of food and beverage services and will now be in charge of that part of the business at Finley. The stadium is also in the process of obtaining a beer and liquor license so that alcoholic beverage sales can be handled in-house as well. The combined income from food and beverage sales is predicted to double to $150,000 from last year when it was handled by Randy Carpenter’s contract catering business. 

Before the application is made for a beer permit, the license held by the previous caterer must be surrendered because it used the stadium’s address. The board of directors also must give approval, which is dependent upon being satisfied that the insurance coverage is sufficient. Representatives from J. Smith Lanier & Co., the insurers, were at the board meeting to hear concerns from the board.

The facility has always been “wet,” the license is just being changed. Liability was already there when the caterer held the permit, but the board just did not realize it, said Gordon Davenport Jr. Of special concern is the personal liability of the board members, their spouses and employees of the stadium corporation. It must be “non-recourse,” said Ryan Crimmons about the insurance. A risk -management company has been hired to provide an opinion. Mr. Smith has a goal of getting the license at the July 17 meeting of the Chattanooga Beer Board.

The stadium is now 18 years old, with the average life expectancy of a stadium being 40 years, said Chairman Bryan Patten. The support group Friends of Finley has raised money for improvements to the facility during that time. Now several major projects are needed and the board is committed to not allowing the Friends of Finley fund to get below $50,000.

 Mike Davis, board member in charge of capital improvements, reported that negotiations are underway for replacing the artificial turf. There are also issues with replacing some of the seating, and areas of the building need caulking. He asked the board for and was given approval to begin a $600,000 fundraising effort over the next two years for capital improvements.

 Projects with the highest priorities will be done as money is received. The work most needed is to replace the turf. The goal to do this is by the start of the 2015 football season. UTC Athletic Director David Blackburn has joined the stadium board in determining the turf and the supplier to use. Negotiations are still in process but at this time, the quote from AstroTurf, a company located in Dalton, Ga., is the most attractive proposal.

 “We have a fabulous facility,” said Mr. Patten and need the fundraising effort to keep up the quality. He and the executive director are also determined to “create a win-win relationship with UTC athletics,” and will be looking for the football program and UTC to share in maintenance of Finley Stadium. He noted that coach Russ Huesman has transformed the capabilities of the football program that will likely take the team to new levels and so it is anticipated that attendance will be high at the games this season.

Income from a proposed cell phone tower on the stadium property will provide money that has never been available before. A new design has been presented which is a structure that will hold three signs. A proposal from Wireless Properties presented to the board at the last meeting would pay $853 per month or 30 percent of the rental fees from providers that use the tower. This amount is seen as insufficient by Mr. Smith and the board.  Mr. Smith said that he is still in negotiations for the style of the tower and for getting a rental price that he considers to be reasonable.   

In the financial report, growth in revenue is anticipated from increased parking fees and the rental of two additional sky boxes. Charges have been raised for rentals of the stadium facilities and pavilion in addition to the increasing number of events being held. Security will now be done in-house and will be charged to users. This is budgeted to supply $10,000 of new income. Savings should also come from most of the maintenance being done by staff members versus contract workers and more efficient use of utilities. The addition of the partnership with Chattanooga Football Club will provide $30,000 of new revenue this year. The Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau is giving the stadium $30,000, which is $10,000 less than last year. First Tennessee Bank is giving $52,500 and the city of Chattanooga is contributing nothing.

Increased expenses include money budgeted for marketing the facilities, higher payroll expenses due to having two directors for a period of time. The cost of supplies needed to create a catering service will also add to the expenses.  Insurance costs are up a little due to wider coverage and because an alcohol rider has been added. A new item on the expense side of the financial report is for money to be set aside each year in a “depreciation fund.” This year, $50,000 is budgeted for the purpose of taking care of maintenance issues in the future.  

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