published Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Finley Stadium budget has hope

Finley Stadium executive director Merrill Eckstein proposed a budget Tuesday for the 2011-12 fiscal year that contains a slight surplus and slight optimism.

Eckstein's budget, which was approved by the Stadium Corp. board members, projects $702,100 in total revenue and a $600 surplus. The Stadium Corp. had a concessions revenue of $93,375 this past year after earning $75,000 in 2009-10, and Eckstein is projecting $98,000 in revenue for this year.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team had two home games last season -- Appalachian State and Georgia Southern -- that drew in excess of 15,000 fans for the first time in program history, but those two games will be on the road this year.

"The concessions is definitely a bet on more spectators in the stands, not only for the Mocs games but other activities like high school games and the Chattanooga FC soccer games next year," Eckstein said. "There is definitely some optimism there on my part, no question about it."

Eckstein has projected an increase in advertising revenue from $30,000 to $42,000, which he mostly hinges on selling space on the back of the scoreboard. His budget also contains a jump from $54,724 to $60,000 in parking revenue, which he bases on charging $10 at every lot and UTC paying more for the First Tennessee Pavilion lot.

The new budget comes on the heels of a $19,900 surplus, which Eckstein believes is a Finley first, but it does not include the $60,000 the city provided each of the past four years.

While this year expects to be a challenge, there are larger issues on the horizon. Board members Mike Davis, who oversees Finley's capital projects, and Jerry Summers expressed concern about the facility having air-conditioning units 13 years old and an impending need for a new roof.

"We're running out of fingers to put in the dikes," Summers said.

The Friends of Finley fund, which was established in 2007 and raised $163,000 that year, wound up at $100,000 this past year. Eckstein suggested re-establishing a $100,000 objective, but Stadium Corp. chairman Bryan Patten believes that could be difficult to achieve.

One of the most loyal contributors to the fund, Rody Davenport, died last month. His generosity was remembered during Tuesday's meeting.

"I don't think there is an ominous cloud," Eckstein said. "Certainly you have some mechanical things in the stadium that are aging, but the fact the skyboxes are used so little does a great deal to extend the lifetime of those air-conditioning units. We've seen three compressors go out, and you're going to have stuff like that happen, but I don't foresee it as an Armageddon where 47 air conditioners quit at the same time.

"I consider the turf as the biggest single hurdle down the road. To put in a brand new turf in a stadium today will cost you anywhere from $750,000 to more than $1 million."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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