Jermaine Freeman addresses County Commission on stadium topic
photo by Thea Marshall
County Mayor Jim Coppinger on Wednesday set a special County Commission meeting for next Wednesday for action on the Southside stadium. However, several hours later the session was canceled, apparently to give more time for preparation of final documents.
Mike Dunne, of the county mayor's office, said, "After further consideration, Mayor Coppinger has rescinded his call for a special called commission meeting for July 27, 2022."
The county mayor remained in strong support of the "community stadium" that is to have backing from the city and county with bonds issued by a new city/county Sports Authority.
He said, “We can’t operate in fear or we will freeze.
Volkswagen came in the recession.”
Continuing to speak out against the project, though he was not at the commission meeting, was retiring Commissioner Tim Boyd. He said afterward, "A called meeting to get the stadium pushed through, and the mayor just last week told us there is no one trying to shove this stadium project down our throats.
"What exactly does one call this? Trying to use executive privilege to push a resolution through that most of our constituents don’t want and only benefits a very few. This is not just “bad government”, this is 'terrible government.'
"The people of Hamilton County deserve much better, and for anyone to claim that the incoming commission and administration are not competent to make such a reasoned decision on a matter that is going to effect the entire county for many years is just totally ridiculous.
"During today’s commission meeting did anyone ask Jason Freire why he is pushing for this to be voted on before Coppinger leaves office? The answer he gave me several weeks ago was, 'I’ve invested too much time and effort in Coppinger for him not to get this done before he leaves office.' Not the answer I was expecting or looking to hear.
"I am not placing any part of my legacy on this stadium project less than a month before I leave office."
On Wednesday morning, County Commissioners heard in detail the plans for the $72 million stadium at the U.S. Pipe/Wheland site. Senior advisor to Tim Kelly Jermain Freeman, Core Development’s Andrew Beard and Lookouts Managing Owner Jason Freier answered the commission's questions.
According to their presentation, the stadium will be funded through “state/local sales tax revenues from all stadium events, competitive lease and parking fee structure with Lookouts and creating a TIF District to capture new property tax revenue.”
They also gave a financing summary to the commission which said “the city and county will each pay $1.4 million assuming development of $350 million; declining as development increases.”
Due to the stadium’s controversy, the group presented previous examples of stadiums built under similar circumstances. For example, they said there have been 19 stadiums built since 2002. Eight of those were 100 percent publicly funded, 14 were 80 percent plus public funding and the last one was funded by a private philanthropist.
Their presentation included reasons why a “multi-use sports entertainment venue” is valuable to Chattanooga. They said it “brings a high volume and consistent flow of people as well as valuable views and a sense of place, helps attract development, which adds to the tax base and the model has been replicated and proven in other markets.”
Concerns regarding the possibility of a recession in the near future were addressed as well. They said of course, development could slow down, but they said their projections were very conservative.
The group also mentioned that this is a project they have been working on since 2018. They said they will start working on a construction budget after it gets approved.
Plans are to gain approval from the city and county by early August.
Part of the urgency is due to Weston Wamp's potential rise to the county mayor office on Sept. 1. He has been skeptical of the stadium project.