Coppinger Says Lookouts Always Asked For Government Help On Stadium; Hits Remarks Against Local Business Leaders

Wednesday, August 3, 2022
Jim Coppinger
Jim Coppinger

Outgoing County Mayor Jim Coppinger on Wednesday said the Lookouts always sought government help for a new stadium, and it was never going to just be a private venture.

He also hit criticisms of private business leaders, saying they are the backbone of the community.

GOP county mayor nominee Weston Wamp said he earlier was in favor of the stadium when he believed it would be privately funded, then he was critical of it after learning of the government involvement. In emails that were recently released, he and his father, former Congressman Zach Wamp, were pushing for the Southside Stadium, then backed away after Weston Wamp was turned down for a Lookouts job.

Weston Wamp has sharply criticized Jason Freier, managing owner of the Lookouts. He called him dishonest and said he had created a smear campaign against him in the midst of an election. Mr. Freier has denied that he released the emails.

Commissioner Chairman Sabrena Smedley during the Wednesday commission meeting asked County Mayor Coppinger, "Mr. Mayor, was there ever a point where the stadium was going to be privately funded?"

The county mayor replied that "absolutely" it was always a public-private partnership. 

He said, "There's a lot I could say today, but I'll give all of you a break and not say it." He said talk of the stadium at the U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site began in 2014 and the next year he took a trip along with then Mayor Andy Berke and Mr. Freier to visit a stadium in Fort Wayne, Ind., where development grew up around it.

County Mayor Coppinger said, "No one ever comes to government to discuss a plan like this unless they are asking that it be a public-private partnership. Absolutely, it was always promoted and discussed that government would be involved in this."

He said, "Some of the people speaking out against it today, they were excited about it then. Believe me I was in the meetings with them."

The county mayor said when leaders have setbacks "they need to forget about it and have the ability not to hold grudges and not to be vindictive. All this divisiveness needs to stop. It really hurts when some of our business people are criticized. I just wish we could keep it more positive. We owe a great deal of credit to people like Jason Freier."

Chairman Smedley said after the county mayor's comments, "Maturity is a good thing, isn't it mayor?"

She said, "Actually the stadium process has been very methodical."

She stated, "A leader has to put personal differences aside when it comes to decisions of this importance for our county." 

County Mayor Coppinger was also critical of use of attack ads. He said he always campaigned on his own merits. Ms. Smedley and Matt Hullander were hit with attack ads at the close of the GOP county mayor primary, which they believe were tied to the Wamp campaign.


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