Brian Wright Chosen As New Executive Director For Finley Stadium; Chris Thomas To Stay On At The Chattanooga Market

Tuesday, June 21, 2022 - by Gail Perry

Chris Thomas attended his last board meeting as executive director of Finley Stadium on Tuesday morning. As he steps away from the job, he will be leaving the stadium in the best shape it has been in for many years, both the physical condition and financially. The management agreement between Finley Stadium and Mr. Thomas ends June 30, Handing over the management to his successor comes at the end of the fiscal year and after the audit.

 

Chairman of the Board Mike Davis led the discussion about Mr.

Thomas’s replacement. He had appointed a three-member committee to consider applications for the job. They recommended Brian Wright who worked at the stadium under former Executive Director Merrill Eckstein. Mr. Wright went to UTC and left seven years ago to work at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. He returned to UTC and got an MBA in sports management, then returned to Mercedes Benz Stadium. He has experience there in both field and operations sides of a stadium and has always had an interest in Finley Stadium, said Mr. Davis. The board unanimously approved for the committee that selected him to proceed negotiating a contract.

 

Mr. Thomas remains the executive director of the Chattanooga Market, a job he has had for 15 years. He said the market is viable only if the stadium is viable, it is a great partnership.

 

He has been executive director of the stadium for the past five years and during that time there has been a concerted effort to invest in repairs and maintenance to keep the facility relevant, he said. Since 2001, $1.1 million has been spent for maintenance and repairs, and this year alone $365,000, a record high, has been spent so far. He credited a gift from the late Bobby Stone’s family to honor the former board member for making the upgrades this year possible. He said it was completely because of that gift.

 

The money was restricted with the condition that it be used for needs related to  hosting a concert. The opportunity to use it became available with the Kane Brown concert that was held on May 7. Work was needed in the stadium to handle the concert’s large crowd. The repairs and maintenance done was for that event, however the improvements made will benefit the stadium and all other users in the future as well. Improvements included reactivating the kitchen and repairing and reopening all the bathrooms. That concert sold 15,000 tickets plus an additional 150-200 complimentary tickets were used. This was the largest concert in the history of Chattanooga, said Mr. Thomas. It paid off with the stadium making a six-digit profit in the third quarter. But the facility felt the strain of that many people, he said, and he would be hesitant to have another similar size concert now because if there was a mechanical failure the stadium would have a large liability.

 

Facilities Manager Peter Turq told the board what repairs and maintenance have been done at the stadium complex in the three years since he began the job. He was credited with saving a lot of money for the stadium and for being able to do much of the work himself. Some of the projects completed since he began the job include installation of a new fire alarm system and rebuilding and replacing sprinkler valves. Replacing plumbing in the locker rooms, making repairs to the field, installing new lighting, HVAC repairs, and making safety updates that were requested by Homeland Security. Electrical repairs and replacing electric panels for TVs, paving the pavilion parking lot, getting bathrooms in working condition, and widening the North gate to allow two trucks to enter. Equipment that has been acquired includes a new field sweep and new soccer goals that are easy to move when the field is changed to a different sport.

 

Needs remain, however, for the facility that is now 25 years old. The field roof has water leaks, and the field lights use old technology that need to be replaced because replacement parts are not available. Lights in the parking lots should be replaced with LEDs.  Roofs are settling over the concession areas and Mr. Turq has been unable to find someone to repair the boiler that heats water. Parts for the elevators are becoming hard to find, so they are close to the end of life, and some lots need to be repaved. "We are in better shape than we have been but still looking at a lot of needs," he said.

 

Use of the stadium is up with 240 events booked this year. As of now, there is only one Saturday opening through the end of 2022. 

 

The board also approved a seven-year contract with Electrify America for an electric vehicle charging station to be located on the stadium grounds. EA is an affiliate of Volkswagen. Contract negotiations are ongoing with Tesla which approached the stadium over a year ago, for a second EV charging station. There is room for both, said Mr. Davis, and the need is growing, especially with the current record high gas prices.

 

The board approved making changes to the way TV is delivered to the skyboxes when the current contract expires with EPB. The TVs will be equipped with streaming devices. And the building and grounds committee will oversee the creation of guidelines for owners of skyboxes who want to make renovations.

 

Mr. Davis told Chris Thomas that he couldn’t put into words what he and his team have done for Finley Stadium in the five years he served as executive director. He said, “We’re in a much better place now.”

 

 


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