Chattanooga Lookouts President and General Manager Rich Mozingo laid out the latest plans for the new baseball stadium development at the Kiwanis Club's meeting Tuesday.
“We have, in fact, checked where the sun sets and rises,” he said. Home plate will sit against I-24 at the river, facing downtown. The 144-acre property, formerly Wheland and U.S. Pipe foundries, is bound by I-24 and Broad Street.
Mr. Mozingo said the project is on schedule, with the groundbreaking in April or May this year. The 9,000-capacity stadium will be complete by Lookouts opening day in April 2025, he said. Currently, planners are communicating with TDOT almost daily to ensure margin along I-24 for future interstate improvements, he said.
The new stadium will not change the Lookouts AA rating, and Major League Baseball still requires natural turf, Mr. Mozingo said.
An original foundry building with stamped-steel roof will be incorporated into the stadium plan. It was built in 1885, the same year the Lookouts began play.
“When all else fails, that building is going to be there,” Mr. Mozingo said.
The Lookouts’ current home, AT&T Field, no longer meets MLB requirements, he said. The hill site is hemmed in, preventing necessary expansion, Mr. Mozingo said. Building a new stadium is cheaper than renovating AT&T Field, he stated.
The Hamilton County Commission and the city of Chattanooga Council approved the mixed-use South Broad District Plan in August 2022. The stadium and entertainment venue are part of the whole district, which reaches across Broad Street to Howard High School.
The county and city will each pay $1.4 million toward the stadium over 30 years, and by then the venue will be worth $80 million, Mr. Mozingo said.
“It’s a great deal for everybody,” he said.
While AT&T Field hosts only 70 games per year, the new venue will host about 800 events “that the entire community will be able to enjoy,” Mr. Mozingo said. “It’s a facility that’s designed to keep the community involved.”
The builders will plan ahead for electricity and other resources to host big concerts, fundraising walks, marathon finish lines, weddings, soccer and football games, and even Christmas lights shows and special big-name sporting events.
“We will build it knowing there will be a next step,” Mr. Mozingo said. “It will give us the opportunity to do bigger, better things as we go forward.”
The new facility will have 5,500 fixed seats and full capacity for 9,000. Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Columbia, S.C., have built similar stadiums 16 years ago and six years ago, respectively. The Fort Wayne stadium has generated $1.2 billion in 16 years, and Mr. Mozingo said Chattanooga can plan on the same.
“What that ballpark has done for that city can’t be overstated,” he said.
The development plan is led by New City Properties. The county and city commitments of $1.4 million each are four percent of the cost of the stadium. The remaining 96 percent will be funded with money generated by the stadium over the next 30 years, including property tax, Lookouts annual lease payments, on-site state sales tax, stadium parking fees and on-site local sales tax.
The county and the city have designated the venue property a tax increment financing district, which allows them to use tax revenue from increasing property values to pay their debt on this public investment.
Mr. Mozingo speculated that AT&T Field will be razed “immediately” and that the seven-acre property will be quickly re-developed.