Business Booming At Finley Stadium; Pavilion

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 - by Gail Perry

“The level of activity at Finley Stadium is insane,” Executive Director Chris Thomas told the board of directors at a Tuesday meeting. Users of the facilities are the traditional clients and partners plus there are many new customers. The events that have been held have proven to be safe and people are becoming used to the restrictions and feel safe here, said Sara Hooper, food and beverage manager and safety director. Being a large, outdoor facility has been a big benefit since more people can gather yet be socially distanced.

During the time the stadium was shut down for public use, maintenance was done on the facility and it is in great shape including repairs and replacement to fire sprinklers and fire alarms, the board was told. Since early February the stadium complex has been utilized seven days a week. There was a spring UTC football game and Chattanooga Football Club practices getting ready for a tournament that is currently taking place. The pavilion has held  the 4 Bridges Art Show, a robotics competition, a plant sale by Tennessee Valley Wild Ones, and the Bugapalooza car show. Taste, the fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation, and Mardi Gras, a fundraiser for Chambliss Center for Children, will be held in late April and May. Plus, there will be a performance by the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra and a professional boxing event, the Chattanooga Beer Fest, Ironman 70.3, and Hamilton County School graduations. And the Chattanooga Market will open this coming weekend. April, May and June will be jam packed as is the remainder of 2021, said Melissa Lail, manager and marketing manager for the Chattanooga Market.

The stadium’s partners are also planning upcoming events, UTC’s Mark Wharton said their financial situation is not as bleak as anticipated and that UTC is gearing up for ticket sales for next fall and is focusing on the new normal. CFC and Finley are currently hosting the spring NISA tournament that is being held from April 13 through April 25. There will be two CFC home games in both May and June and fall season starts Aug. 1. Hours for the Chattanooga Market will be from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and it will continue to observe COVID protocols. Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee Chief Tim Morgan thanked the board for their partnership and support to secure the TSSAA football championship this year. "We are starting to see events coming back," he said.

Mr. Thomas told the board that the stadium corporation had a reasonable amount of activity during the first three quarters of the year that generated revenue. Technically, this was one of the best results compared to past years. He said the stadium lost $40,000 in the three quarters, but that was an improvement over the past. A profit of $130,000 was made in the fiscal year including income from the Tennessee Cares Act. That grant reimbursed the stadium for costs related to the prevention of COVID such as hand sanitizer and masks among other things. Finley Stadium was reimbursed $172,371 from the state. There was zero profit from this grant but it enabled the facility to have safe events and it is doing its job, said Mr. Thomas.

Solar panels were installed over the parking sheds in the lot in front of the stadium in 2000 by TVA. In return TVA paved and striped that parking lot, but the stadium received no other energy credits or compensation. EPB has now reached out and offered to take possession of the solar panels, and retrofit them with modern technology, while adding more of them to the roof of the pavilion. Lance Irwin, director of energy solutions technology at EPB, told the board that with the new technology 10 times more power could be generated for the facility that could be used or sold. A motion passed that the board supports asking for TVA to return the solar panels to the stadium and the stadium would turn them over to EPB. Revenue for the stadium corporation will be part of the negotiations with EPB and the board will have the ability to vote on any agreement.

Another revenue source for the Stadium Corporation was proposed by Joe Williams with Tesla, which wants to put a Level 3, DC Fast or Super Charging station for about 12 vehicles next to Chattanooga Chew Chew Dog Park behind the pavilion. There are three levels of charging for electric vehicles, he said, Level 1 takes around two or three days to fully charge, Level 2 takes about six to eight hours and Level 3 takes just 20-40 minutes to get a full charge.

He said that a screen directs a car to a super charger station automatically, needing no advertising. During large events and traffic problems, cars would be directed to a preferred entrance to avoid traffic problems, which at Finley is an alternate entrance for access to the pavilion kitchen. The stadium would receive monthly rent and the traffic would have the potential to bring in a lot of business. The station would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and would be a turnkey operation with Tesla responsible for construction, maintenance, operation and insurance. The contract proposal is for a term of 15 years. For now, the stations would be solely dedicated to use for Teslas, but that is expected to change in the future. Cars must be capable to use this type of fast charging and adaptors may be developed. Board Member Gordon Davenport suggested making accommodations for other brand charging stations at the stadium campus. The board voted to show support for its interest in the project, which was needed before Tesla moved forward with more concrete plans.

There is the possibility of a concert to be held at Finley Stadium in July. Live entertainment has been a challenge previously for Chattanooga because of radius exclusions which would block having the same concert in both Nashville and Atlanta, said Mr. Thomas. If it ends up being offered, he said, the board will have to make decisions for making capital expenses that would be needed, specifically a field cover and electrical improvements. In the past, the stadium received an anonymous gift for $210,000 specified for equipment needed for live entertainment. If Chattanooga is chosen for this concert, Mr. Thomas said it would have a six-figure impact for the facility. The motion to use the donated funds was approved, only after receiving the contract. The risk would be mitigated by the fee paid for use of the campus and the  client would be required to put down a 50 percent deposit. There would be a no cancellation option and no refunds. It is hoped that if one successful show is held that the stadium would attract others. Board member Jerre Haskew told the board to “remember Bobby Stone, this was a dream of his too.”

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