Finley Stadium is back to where it was pre-pandemic. The facility is in good financial shape, said Executive Director Chris Thomas and its use is at the maximum with 210 events booked and 47 already having taken place this spring. The number of staff and labor has also been increasing to accommodate the current level of use, which is two or three events almost every day. Partners with the stadium, UTC football, Chattanooga Football Club, the Chattanooga Market and Chattanooga Sports are also busy and operating and holding events as they did prior to 2019.
Chattanooga Sports has already had a marathon and a lacrosse game.
CFC had its home opener on March 26 with a large crowd, then participated in the U.S. Open Cup which led to the third round of the U.S. Cup on Wednesday night against Atlanta United, said Managing Director Jeremy Alumbaugh. A new women’s coach has been hired and women’s team tryouts will be this weekend. And, CFC has signed a new partnership agreement with Volkswagen.
Opening for the Chattanooga Market 2022 is this weekend and Manager of the Market Melissa Lail told the Finley Stadium Board that this year it will all be fully running and fully staffed. Events that had been cancelled since the pandemic began, such as an ice cream social and blueberry pie eating contest, will also be held. Operating the market includes the River Market at the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza that has already been open and the Erlanger Market that will be open every Friday. A positive sign, she said, is that applications from vendors had to be cut off because so many were being received. There will be 170-180 booths this year and up to 19 food trucks.
Facilities Manager Peter Turk is overseeing updates being made to the 26-year-old facility. LED lighting is being installed, field improvements are in process, a gate area is being enlarged to allow parking of more food trucks, the kitchen at the pavilion and two concession stands are being upgraded and new signage is being installed among other enhancements. The $200,000 gift from the Stone family for the Bobby Stone Memoria Fund is being put to good use, said Mr. Thomas. The money was given to the stadium in order to prepare for a public concert. It is mostly going toward infrastructure needs that will make the facility functional for handling a large crowd, but other events held there will also benefit from what is being done.
The Kane Brown Free and Blessed Tour will be Saturday, May 7. Preparing for it has a lot of moving parts, said Mr. Thomas. The stadium will be staffed with over 200 people to help handle the event in addition to those who will come with the tour. Security needs are amazing, he said, and they will provide fencing for field security themselves. Over 1,900 meals will be catered during the preparations prior to the concert. The average ticket price is $50 and at this time, sales are expected to be 20,000. There still is some availability. A direct link to ticket sales is on the Finley Stadium website.
Another source of income for the Stadium Corporation is parking. An agreement with REEF Parking was terminated in February. That company failed to provide financial statements to verify payments that were made to Finley Stadium. A new contract has been made with Bright Base. Another important part of the revenue stream comes from the partnership with First Horizon Bank, which has just been acquired by TD Bank Group. The good news is that TD has indicated it will continue the sponsorship. Signage and banners at the stadium complex will be changed to reflect the new name.
The potential of new income is coming from the possibility of electric vehicle charging stations located on stadium property that is now little used. Two companies have been introduced by the city of Chattanooga. Tesla has been considering a location near the dog park for over a year. A contract for 12 charging stations was amended and returned to the company nearly two months ago but no response has been received by the stadium as of now. A question remaining is if the 40-minute quick charge Tesla station could be used by other brand EVs.
In the meantime another company, Electrify America, has also approached the stadium as a location for six charging stations. EA is owned 100 percent by Volkswagen. That proposal is attractive to Finley Stadium for several reasons, including the new sponsorship of the CFC which is a partner with Finley and because of Volkswagen’s ties to Chattanooga. Plus the EA chargers would work on multiple car brands. The board voted unanimously to approve the proposal presented by EA for a period of five years so there will be flexibility if that property is needed for another use in the future. The agreement with Tesla is on hold pending their response. Both companies would be required to connect to their own meters, not those of the stadium.
Chattanooga is a desirable location for these electric charging facilities because it is half way between Atlanta and Nashville. It was acknowledged that there is room for more than one EV charging provider on the Finley campus.