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City Council Gives Final Approval For Stadium Deal; Council Adds Provisions For "Transparency" On $80 Million Project

Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Stadium site at long-vacant brownfield property
Stadium site at long-vacant brownfield property

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the $80 million Southside Stadium project. The action puts in motion the ability for a new city/county Sports Authority to convene and issue $80 million in bonds for the "community" facility on nine acres at the U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site.

Councilman Chip Henderson added several provisions that he said would add "transparency" to the controversial Southside Stadium deal. 

Councilman Henderson said the Sports Authority would give yearly reports to the City Council on the amount of the debt that remained.

He said the group would be required to notify the City Council when all the stadium debt is satisfied and on if there is an excess in funds above the amount required to fund the debt.

Another section says, "Upon receipt of such notification, the City Council shall notify the Hamilton
County Board of Commissioners so that the legislative bodies can evaluate the South Broad
District economic impact plan to determine if it is in the public interest to consider alternatives,
such as refinancing of the Sports Authority debt to limit the use of tax increment revenues or the
appropriate application of excess tax increment revenues so as to benefit the City and the County."

Councilwoman Jenny Hill agreed with the provisions, saying, "We want the people of Chattanooga and Hamilton County to be kept up on this project."

The City Council action is the final approval step. It was earlier okayed by the County Commission and the city and county bond boards.

Tim Boyd, of the County Commission, and Steve Slater, of the County Industrial Development Board, cast the only no votes during the process. 

Mayor Tim Kelly addressed the council after the vote. He said:

 

"I want to thank you and congratulate each of you, because tonight’s vote was a demonstration of your vision, and a massive step forward for the future for our community. After decades of plans, studies, and public meetings, the transformation of Chattanooga’s long-neglected western gateway will begin at long last — and together, we will create a thriving community that will increase prosperity and quality of life in our city for generations to come.

"This project will conservatively generate tens of millions of dollars in new money for schools. And it will provide millions more in new, permanent tax revenue to pave roads, invest in infrastructure and support workers not only in the South Broad district, but across our city and county.

"But this is about more than just increasing our tax base. This is about new housing, new commercial space for our small businesses, new living-wage jobs, and new public green spaces and trails. It’s about creating a vibrant new district that will help us attract and retain talent in Chattanooga, and act as a big, beautiful welcome sign to visitors coming into town. This is about connecting our neighborhoods, bringing us one step closer to One Chattanooga. In summary, this is about a huge leap forward towards becoming the best city in the country.

"But before I go on, I want to thank everyone who helped us get to this momentous day.

"First off, I want to thank my closest partner and good friend, Mayor Jim Coppinger, for everything he has done over the last decade to move this project forward. It is because of his leadership, passion, and vision that we are here today, celebrating this home run for the future of our community. Thank you, as well, to Sen. Todd Gardenhire and Rep. Patsy Hazlewood for sponsoring and advancing the legislation that made this project possible, as well as all of the members of our local state delegation who supported it.

"I also want to thank this City Council, especially Vice Chairwoman Dotley, in whose district this project resides, as well as our County Commission (and specifically Councilman and Commissioner Smith, who has the great honor of voting for this TWICE) as well as the members of the City and County industrial development boards for their vision on this catalytic project. I could not be more grateful for all of your steady, mature leadership throughout this process, and I look forward to continuing to work with you as the South Broad district grows into reality.

"Thank you also to Perimeter Properties, not only for donating the land for the new stadium, but also for their steadfast commitment to ensuring our western gateway becomes a real jewel, and a textbook example of how a community can renew itself. Their leadership, vision and patience will allow us to revitalize South Broad the right way.

"And finally, I want to thank the Lookouts- their fans and their large and diverse ownership group- for their love of Chattanooga, their commitment to staying here, and their partnership in the construction of the stadium that will spur a generational revitalization in our South Broad district.

"So what’s next, what now? Well, now it’s time to look ahead to the exciting work of transforming our western gateway into a spectacular new community. Great cities are made up of great spaces, and with Master Developer Jim Irwin’s vision and leadership, I am confident the South Broad district will become one of the most epic, beautiful riverfront spaces in the country- and I KNOW he believes this too - or he would not have taken on the project. When Chattanooga revitalized its downtown following the construction of the Aquarium- which I might add, happened despite vocal opposition from the same old predictable quarters- cities from all over the world sent delegations to study what we did and how we did it, and I feel sure that’ll happen again.

"And although this story really isn’t about the Lookouts, it’s no small thing that your wise decision today means we get to keep our historic team- the second oldest in the nation- which we otherwise would’ve lost. As you know, the old AT&T field was clearly out of compliance with Major League Baseball rules- rules we cannot change or argue- and had we failed to act, the Chattanooga Lookouts would have had to pack up and go.

"Ginny and I look forward to going to ball games in the new stadium and enjoying its more open, family-friendly spaces (and not staring directly into the sun!). And of course when the Lookouts aren’t playing, this venue will be home to countless memories in the decades to come — from concerts and school events, to food drives and fireworks shows, it will truly serve as a year-round public asset for our region.

"And I’ll say it one more time: this project isn’t really about the stadium. And it’s not just about the surrounding new development. It’s primarily about the renewal of the entire South Broad community, which will ripple across our city and county.

"That’s why I am committed to ensuring that as the new South Broad district develops and grows, those who live nearby will have every opportunity to grow and prosper along with it. In the coming months, my team will be working alongside the developers and the community to draw up a community benefits agreement to create and preserve affordable housing in the area and provide residents with pathways to new, living-wage jobs. And we’ll also be working to ensure that as much of the stadium as possible is built with local hands, using local labor and contractors.

"And for the first time, with the creation of the Alton Park Connector, we will be connecting a historic interior neighborhood to the riverwalk, opening up alternative transportation options for Alton Park residents and increasing access to jobs and shopping throughout the South Broad corridor - bringing together two formerly disconnected Chattanooga communities.

"I’ll close with this: the sad fact is that there is nobody left alive in Chattanooga who has ever really seen a golden era of prosperity here- and there has never been an era of prosperity in our history that included ALL Chattanoogans. And because of that fact, unfortunately, too many people in our community lack the vision, the courage, and the confidence in the future to imagine what might be- a better city for all of us.  But as we look to the future, my hope is that today will mark the beginning of a new era of investment and inclusive growth in Chattanooga, in which we fundamentally shift our trajectory, upwards and forwards. When we say One Chattanooga, it means changing our mindset to growing the pie for everyone, not just fighting over the scraps of an old, broken world.  It means investing in our future, not trapping ourselves in the past by refusing to believe in the possible. It means looking ahead with hope and courage to what we can and will accomplish together, and overcoming the fear and cynicism that for too long has held us back.

"Folks, quality of life is what sets cities apart these days, and it’s up to us to leverage these God-given natural resources to create high-quality urban spaces that bring happiness and opportunity to everyone who calls Chattanooga home - as well as our friends across Hamilton County. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to make this happen.

"As the famous scientist Jonas Salk said, 'Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” -  today, you have demonstrated that courage, so thank you - and congratulations again on being a part of this important and pivotal piece of Chattanooga history." 

 

City officials said the vote "kicks off a renewal effort that will generate tens of millions of dollars in new money for schools, roads and infrastructure across Chattanooga and Hamilton County, while transforming a blighted brownfield into a vast, vibrant live-work-play district.

 

"The catalyst for the project is a new stadium, owned by a city-county sports authority, that will ignite surrounding revitalization and breathe new life into the city’s western gateway, while also keeping the Lookouts in Chattanooga. Where motorists entering the city once saw belching black clouds fueled by pit fires, and later a rusted wasteland, within years the site will be bustling with activity fueled by lush public spaces and mixed-use development.

 

"The Lookouts’ current home at AT&T Field was privately built, and also poorly built. It faces into the sun, which can’t be fixed, and was found by Major League Baseball to have more than 140 different compliance deficiencies that would have caused the league to pull the franchise had the city and county not acted. The loss of the Lookouts would not only have terminated one of baseball’s historic franchises, but would also have cost the community $30 million in economic impact that the Lookouts provide.

 

"The City and County leveraged tax increment financing for the project, with each committing just $1.4 million of non-property tax revenues up front toward the $72 million cost of the multi-use stadium. The land for the stadium will be donated by Perimeter Properties, which has also donated approximately 14 acres of  land to allow the Riverwalk to bisect the site. Similar projects in Fort Wayne, Ind. and Columbia, S.C., have so far generated $1 billion and $650 million in new development, respectively.

 

"Not one penny of current property taxes will go toward the project, rather the city and county’s contribution will come from hotel/motel fees paid by tourists, as well as economic development fees set aside for this purpose. The vast majority - 96 percent - of the catalytic stadium will be funded by future development that happens on site and revenue from the stadium itself, as the taxable value of new buildings yields new property taxes to pay back bondholders. This will not only pay back the city and county’s initial investment, but will permanently increase the city and county’s respective budgets, allowing local government to offer superior services to all residents decades into the future.

 

"Tax increment financing is a unique funding mechanism in that it fuels economic development using the growth from the project itself, eliminating the need to take money from current taxpayers or reallocate money from schools or roads. The projects are ultimately funded through a bond that is then paid back with the increase, or increment, in tax receipts that result from new homes, offices and restaurants.

 

"In this particular project, 58 percent of the stadium will be funded by new property taxes from new homes, offices and stores constructed with private money, while the Lookouts will pay 22 percent through one of the most expensive leases in minor league baseball. With the support of Chattanooga’s legislative delegation, 14 percent of the project will be funded by sales taxes generated inside the stadium, while 2 percent each will come from the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County development fees.

 

"Since the stadium will be funded by new growth, the project by its very nature won’t lead to a tax increase. Only new incremental property taxes within the district - taxes that do not currently exist — will be used for the stadium. Any city and county funds used for the stadium will be paid from economic development or hotel/motel funds, not property tax revenue. Furthermore, the interlocal agreement between the city and county specifies that no existing property taxes will be used for the stadium.

 

"In fact, even as a portion of the new tax revenue will go toward paying off the stadium, schools will continue to receive 100 percent of their allocation of both existing and new property taxes. Using the city’s conservative $350 million projection for new development, schools will receive $40 million in new money, the county will receive $17 million in new money, and the city will receive $18.5 million in new money toward their general funds. Those numbers will climb once development exceeds $350 million.

 

"A portion of the tax revenue increment - over and above that which is required to pay off the $80 million in stadium bonds and build a capital maintenance reserve - will be used to construct the Alton Park connector, which for the first time, will connect a historic neighborhood to the Riverwalk, opening up alternative transportation options for Alton Park residents and increasing access to jobs and shopping throughout the South Broad corridor.

 

"Other community benefits include new public spaces that will connect to the Riverwalk, including the stadium itself. In public presentations before both the City Council and the County Commission, Lookouts owner Jason Freier explained his policy of keeping the stadiums open to the public whenever no ticketed event was scheduled, allowing fans to cool off in fountains, rest in the shade, and enjoy a stroll through the concourse.

 

"But Mayor Kelly has directed city staff to go above and beyond the economic and quality-of-life benefits that the project will organically generate. City officials plan to increase the cadence of community meetings to facilitate execution of a community benefits agreement, which will help assure housing stability as well as workforce participation for those living in the neighborhoods adjacent to the former U.S. Pipe and Wheland Foundry sites where the stadium will be located.

 

"Such benefits could include infrastructure improvements in the neighborhoods surrounding the district, agreements on local workers taking part in construction projects, and agreements to ensure that neighborhood residents aren’t priced out of their homes amid rising prosperity.

 

"Officials are also planning to work with The Howard School, which is part of the district, to allow students who attend the architecture and construction programs at its Future Ready Institute to get hands-on experience during the planning and construction phases of the project.

 

"Jim Irwin, the master developer, will spend the coming months working with the community to establish a master plan covering the full developable acreage, which will determine the highest and best use of every parcel, as well as establish rules for development both sitewide and by parcel.

 

"The Sports Authority, which following the City Council’s vote is now officially formed, will meet to adopt governing documents and begin the process of issuing bonds.

 

"The stadium is expected to open in 2025, though associated development is likely to break ground and may even be open before that time." 


The City Council approves these resolutions:

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE, APPROVING AN ECONOMIC IMPACT PLAN FOR THE SOUTH BROAD DISTRICT PLAN AREA AND AUTHORIZING THE APPROPRIATE CITY OFFICIALS TO TAKE ALL ACTIONS NECESSARY TO IMPLEMENT SAID PLAN

A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE, AUTHORIZING THE CREATION AND APPOINTING THE DIRECTORS OF THE SPORTS AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF HAMILTON AND THE CITY OF CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE.

A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE INTERIM ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE DEPARTMENT FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TO ENTER INTO A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH CHATTANOOGA PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL, LLC D/B/A THE CHATTANOOGA LOOKOUTS TO PROVIDE A COMMITMENT OF PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL IN A NEW BALL PARK AS DESCRIBED IN THE SOUTH BROAD DISTRICT ECONOMIC IMPACT PLAN.

A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE INTERIM ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TO ENTER INTO A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH PERIMETER PROPERTIES, LLC, PIPE PROPERTIES, LLC, AND GATEWAY VIEW, LLC TO
PROVIDE A COMMITMENT OF WORK WITH THE CITY, COUNTY, AND SPORTS AUTHORITY TO FACILITATE THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SOUTH BROAD DISTRICT AND TO DONATE PROPERTY FOR A NEW MULTI-USE SPORTS VENUE THAT IS GOVERNED BY A NEWLY-CREATED SPORTS AUTHORITY.

A RESOLUTION APPROVING AND AUTHORIZING THE EXECUTION OF AN INTERLOCAL COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT (MULTI-USE STADIUM PROJECT) WITH HAMILTON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, AND THE SPORTS AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF HAMILTON AND THE
CITY OF CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE.

 


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