Finley Stadium is creating partnerships as a way of running the stadium efficiently. This July was the best that the stadium has ever had, primarily due to a new arrangement with the Chattanooga Football Club and the sale of beer. There were seven weekends of soccer at the field and a viewing of the championship game on a big screen to end the season.
The affiliation with CFC will provide income of $30,000 in 2014. The soccer club has use of the facility on a regular basis for games, practice and soccer clinics at a time that the stadium traditionally has been idle.
This use also contributes to income from parking and concession sales.
Executive Director Paul Smith and Chairman of the Board of Directors Bryan Patten recently met with officials at UTC to encourage a mutually beneficial partnership between the school and stadium. A 50/50 split of profits for ticket sales, concessions and parking is being sought.
For its part, UTC has plans in place to increase participation in the football program both from the students and the community. The biggest push will be getting students to attend games and that is directly tied to performance, said Athletic Director David Blackburn, “They want to follow a winner.” The Mocs will provide a high level of good football this season, and the hope is for a good showing at the first home game on Sept. 6 against Jacksonville State, he said. The school will also provide free parking for students at a lot close to the stadium.
Attendance is usually highest at the start of the football season and again at Homecoming with a lull in between. Officials hope to fill seats by targeting the Hamilton County Schools. The athletic department will offer discount tickets to booster clubs for the Mercer game on Oct. 25 when lower crowds are expected. Additionally, Head Coach Russ Huesman plans to do a commercial featuring players that have come from area high schools in order to increase local high school interest in the college’s football program. A kiosk at Hamilton Place Mall is also marketing UTC football.
Another partnership is being formed with the supplier of the new artificial turf that will be installed.
Board member Mike Davis has negotiated a contract with Astro Turf based in Calhoun, Ga., for replacing the playing surface, which is the most urgent maintenance project needed at the stadium. The cost for this will be around $525,000-$550,000, which includes help from the manufacturer for yearly upkeep. Also built into the contract is for the company to refresh the old turf before the 2014 football season begins. The new surface will be installed after the 2014 season ends. The partnership will benefit Astro Turf by providing access to Finley’s field as demonstration of the company’s cutting edge artificial turf to other customers.
Mr. Smith told the board that he believes dynamics in Chattanooga are changing. From seeing the increased interest in soccer and increased number of people at the Chattanooga Market, he thinks that people want to get out. It is believed that these things are viewed as social events and he thinks this practice will carry over to UTC football. As of now, season ticket sales are up six-eight percent from last year.
Mr. Patten told the board that the new executive director is very accepting of challenges and is in the process of crafting new ways for the stadium to be profitable. Event Services headed by Hayley Bates is now handling catering and some of the concessions in-house. This is expected to contribute to an increase in profit for the stadium. The concession stands selling hamburgers will be done by event services. Other vendors will also be available such as Zaxby’s that will sell chicken and Lupi’s that will sell pizza. Banners will be hung above each concession stand to guide buyers to the product they are looking for. There will also be roving beverage sales. Making food sales convenient for customers is the goal.
There will also be additional savings in maintenance, repairs and cleaning that will happen from being done in-house. Venue Manager Brian Wright heads this department, which has already provided savings for the facility.
Mr. Smith reported that he has received interest from a second company for building a cell phone tower on stadium property. Another source of income for the stadium will come from the tower once a proposal and company have been chosen and the tower is built.
Beer sales will contribute to increased profits when the Stadium Board applies and receives a beer license. Before that happens, a complete risk assessment will be done to alleviate the board member’s responsibility and liability for accidents. This will include evaluation of the entire way the stadium operates. Until a license is held by the stadium, beer sales will be handled by the previous caterer, Randy Carpenter, who holds a permit. Skybox owners are allowed to provide their own beverages.
Mr. Smith told the board that out of 61 days in September and October, 57 events are scheduled to be held at Finley Stadium. There is an ongoing attempt to host events that put people into seats and increase food sales.
Mr. Patten told the board of the need for a two-year capital campaign to raise $600,000. The improved price of the new artificial turf from what had been expected will allow the money raised by Friends of Finley to be used for other needed improvements and maintenance at the facility. Replacing the premium seating in the south stands with seats that can be raised is needed, he said. In the near future floodlights will need to be replaced, and re-caulking the structure is ongoing.