$79.5 Million Stadium Touted As Catalyst For Major Project At Long-Blighted Wheland/U.S. Pipe Site; Lookouts To Pay $1 Million Annually To Lease "Community" Stadium

Thursday, June 30, 2022

More than 100 acres of the long-neglected U.S. Pipe and Wheland Foundry sites "will begin transforming into a world-class live-work-play district that will generate more than $40 million for schools," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly announced at a press conference at the site on Thursday. 

Flanked by nationally renowned master developer Jim Irwin of New City Properties, the mayors detailed a public-private partnership that they said "will allow a long-planned revitalization of the blighted site - which is expected to generate more than $1 billion in private investment - to begin in earnest."

They said an initial $350 million phase, which will include multi-family residential buildings, class-A office space, and public recreation areas, will be anchored and catalyzed by a $79.5 million multi-use stadium. 

The city and county will each contribute $1.5 million to the construction of the multi-use stadium, together about four percent of the cost.

The mayors said, "Using conservative projections, the surrounding new development will generate more than $40 million in new funding for education, of more than $90 million will be generated in total new tax revenue for the city and county. By comparison, a similar project in Fort Wayne, Ind., reached $1 billion of new development in 13 years. And a recent project in Columbia, South Carolina - similar in  size to the Chattanooga site - notched $650 million in six years, and is expected to exceed $1.2 billion at full build out.

The remainder of the funding for the stadium - 96 percent - will come from the project itself, including tax payments from private property owners and developers, and via payments generated by the new multi-use stadium.

The Lookouts’ owners will pay $1 million in rent per year, higher than any other team in Minor League Baseball, and nearly three times the rent paid by the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium, it was stated. In addition to rent, the Lookouts will pay for all operations and regular maintenance for 30 years, projected to be $45 million over that period.

Multi-use stadium funding:

  • Property tax generated from private development on the site  — 63%

  • Lease payments for the multi-use stadium — 22%

  • State sales tax generated inside the multi-use stadium — 6%

  • Parking revenue from the multi-use stadium — 4%

  • City/County funding for debt service — 4%

  • Local sales tax generated inside the multi-use stadium — 1%

The Chattanooga Lookouts will lease the stadium from the Chattanooga Sports Authority, a new entity to be formed by the city and county, which will own the property.

The land on which the multi-use stadium will be built, valued at $10 million, is being donated by the current property owners to help spur growth in the South Broad district, it was stated. The property owners previously donated land for the Tennessee Riverwalk, which will continue to serve the site and will be complemented by enhancements to public space. 

Officials said, "The stadium itself will only be used by the Lookouts 20 percent of the year. The rest of the time, it will be a community asset, available for residents to use for local events or to freely access as yet another beautiful, open green space in our city.

"The method of financing revitalization projects using the revenue generated by the project itself, known as tax increment financing, is common throughout the country as a mechanism for tackling blighted industrial zones the market has been unable to redevelop alone.

"The U.S. Pipe and Wheland foundries were shuttered in the early 2000s, and for decades Chattanooga’s western gateway has rusted away, even as much of the rest of Chattanooga saw redevelopment and renewal."

Mayor Kelly said, “Today, we now have an incredible opportunity before us to revitalize, renew, and reinvest in this historic land and the South Broad district. Our city, the county, and the state are coming together with the ownership group and a renowned master developer to transform this site into a vibrant new community where economic opportunity and quality of life come together. The time is now.”

He said the current plan has been in the works since 2015, when a plan to catalyze development with a multi-use stadium, paid for using tax increment financing, began to take shape. After a year of community input, the plan was published in 2018, approved by both the city and county mayors, and was then recommended by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission and adopted by Chattanooga’s City Council, it was stated. 

Mayor Kelly said, "But plans paused during the pandemic, while the city and the county focused on keeping our community healthy and prosperous over the past several years. 

"Now, thanks to the addition of a renowned master developer, a sound financing plan developed with assistance from the state delegation, and with the Lookouts facing a looming deadline from Major League Baseball to secure a venue that meets the league’s new standards, the project is moving forward." 

County Mayor Coppinger said, “I’ve been working on this project for nearly a decade, and the opportunity to renew our western gateway is too important for the future of Hamilton County to not see this through. This will create new jobs, millions of dollars for our schools and new homes for families. This is an investment for our children and our children's children.”

He said the newly engaged master developer "brings specialized expertise to the project, with an extensive background in redeveloping blighted areas into thriving communities where quality of life and economic opportunity come together." 

The firm specializes in brownfield redevelopment, as well as in preservation of structures with historic character, such as the towering roof of the U.S. Pipe facility, which is expected to form part of the future stadium. Irwin’s past projects include Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, the Fourth Ward near Atlanta’s BeltLine, and the Neuhoff site in Nashville, among others. 

Mr. Irwin said, “What attracted New City to this project was the opportunity to combine our adaptive reuse experience with our interest in building compelling places that the surrounding community can embrace. There is a powerful story that runs through this site - a key pillar of industry in the community for more than a century, and Gary Chazen and his partners have trusted us with the opportunity to help restore it for future generations.

“We try to be very thoughtful about the projects we take on, but the more I learn about this opportunity, the more excited I get when I think about what it can become.”

Karitsa Mosley Jones, who serves on the Hamilton County Board of Education, and is administrator of the city’s Department of Early Learning, said, "Key to the plan’s financing is that Hamilton County Schools will continue to receive 100 percent of the tax payments it is owed - projected at more than $40 million in new money- throughout the course of the project, and beyond.

“Those of us who value education have been working for years to secure more funding for our teachers, for our schools and for our students. Hamilton County is already known for its outdoor resources, its vibrant downtown, and its beautiful riverfront. But what if we were also known for the quality of our education system? This $40 million will bring us closer to that future.”

A website about the project is at southbroad.info



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