Coppinger Says "Negative Remarks" On Stadium "Not Helpful"; Boyd Says Many Questions On Public Involvement In $80 Million Facility Still Not Answered

  • Wednesday, July 6, 2022

County Mayor Jim Coppinger on Wednesday said negative remarks from local leaders about a plan for public involvement in a new stadium to be occupied by the Lookouts "are not helpful in any way."

Weston Wamp, Republican nominee to replace the veteran Coppinger, has called for a slowed-down timeline and a public process on the funding, and County Commissioner Tim Boyd on Wednesday said many questions about the project remain unanswered.

County Mayor Coppinger said the project in which the community will build the stadium under the aegis of a new Sports Authority has been designed so that "it will pay for itself." He said that includes a $1.5 million contribution each from the city and county, the use of sale taxes from the stadium, and setting up a Tax Increment Financing District. That would go along with $1 million per year lease payments from the Lookouts.

The county mayor said the county's $1.5 million would not come from the property tax, but from economic development fees.

County Mayor Coppinger said a master planner and project developers have stated that the project will not work without the ball park as a "catalyst." He said owner Gary Chazen planned to donate around nine acres worth $10 million for the stadium.

He said the stadium was designed for many more seats than regular Lookouts fans because it would be used for many other events, including concerts.

The county mayor said master developer Jim Irwin brought $1 billion in development on 10 acres at the Atlanta Belt Line and would have over 100 acres to work with at the U.S. Pipe/Wheland site.

County Mayor Coppinger said a poll on may have shown a large majority of those who voted were against government involvement in the stadium, but he said polls on the Times Free Press and Channel 3 showed favorable support. He said, "There's a whole lot of support for the future of that area."

He said of the project, "You're going to see housing, entertainment, tourism. You know it's going to be done right."

The county manager said of accusations that the project lacked "transparency" that this was "a favorite political word that means 'I want to stall.' "

Commissioner Boyd said, "What if another COVID comes along and we don't have baseball? What happens when the Lookouts can't pay their million dollars?"

He asked, "What's the debt service on $80 million for 30 years with interest rates going up?"

He said a 2008 study of the U.S. Pipe/Wheland site that was sponsored by the Lyndhurst Foundation "had not one syllable about a ball park."

That study, he said, said the owners of the property were the Lyndhurst Foundation and Perimeter Properties (Chazen group). He said, "That's the first time I've heard that there was another owner of that property. I don't know if Lyndhurst still owns part of it or not."   

He said, "If Gary Chazen says 10 acres for the ball park are worth $10 million, why doesn't he sell the whole thing and walk off with $140 million?"

Commissioner Boyd said Knox County, which is carrying out a similar stadium deal, "held three public meetings on it just last month. We ain't had a one. There are a whole lot of questions and not enough answers on this Wheland property."





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