published Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

City of Chattanooga reviewing annual Finley funding

A second consecutive winning season by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team resulted in record revenue at Finley Stadium this past fall, but the city of Chattanooga has yet to commit to funding for the facility in the next fiscal year.

The city, which has provided $60,000 to the Stadium Corp. each of the past four years, has asked board chairman Bryan Patten to submit paperwork within the next few days that will be reviewed by its budget committee chaired by Carol Berz. The county also provides $60,000 annually through the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and UTC is responsible for $10,000 per home football game.

"I don't have a sense of optimism or pessimism," Patten said Tuesday. "I think it's responsible on their part, and we'll submit the paperwork timely and accurately."

Richard Beeland, the director of communications for the city, said the budget committee is examining every entity that seeks funding.

"We're not just going to continue funding people who have been receiving funding for years without discussing what they're doing with that money and how they're planning to use it," Beeland said. "The money that the county pays to the Stadium Corp. comes out of sales tax dollars and does not come out of their general fund, and our council is looking at that, too. There are a lot of questions the council has that they want answered about this.

"But no one should be intimidated by this process or consider it a reason not to get funded. It's just better oversight of taxpayer dollars."

Patten said he normally receives "body language" by this time of year from the city that another $60,000 will be provided. Should the city reduce or eliminate its funding, the Stadium Corp. would have to look into increasing event fees, parking and concessions.

Finley Stadium had a record 61.44 percent capacity level in the 2010 football season as 63,494 fans attended the five home games. UTC's average home attendance of 12,699 ranked 24th nationally in the Championship Subdivision, third in the Southern Conference behind Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, and it dwarfed the 5,767 average Finley had in 2008.

The Stadium Corp. received a record $80,531 in concessions and a record $48,212 in parking fees. It also forked out a record $90,857 in event service personnel.

"We used to have 15 to 18 officers a game," Finley Stadium executive director Merrill Eckstein said. "Now we need 36."

Said board member Ryan Crimmins: "That's a good problem to have."

The Stadium Corp. had a budget deficit of about $15,000 during the 2009-10 fiscal year, but Eckstein is projecting a surplus of $12,115 for this one. He has a proposed budget for 2011-12 that calls for a surplus of $26,100.

Although 2011 is less than 50 days old, there are 166 events scheduled this year for the stadium, the First Tennessee Pavilion and the stadium club. The events range from UTC football to dental seminars.

"This community is using this stadium and pavilion big time," board member Gordon Davenport said.

Renovations coming

The Stadium Corp. made a motion Tuesday to spend $100,000 on repairs, an estimated half of which will go to seal-coating and restriping the parking spaces in the north parking lot and the pavilion parking area. Board member Mike Davis was given the authority to prioritize additional repairs, such as cleaning sidewalks and concourses and replacing caulking at all joints in concrete walks and walls at the field level.

Such renovations will be funded by Friends of Finley, which has $175,000 in its account, according to Patten.

Prep games dwindling

With East Hamilton planning to have a field with lighting this season and with the Baylor-McCallie rivalry scheduled at Baylor, high school football games at Finley could be scarce. The only games scheduled are Howard vs. Tyner on Thursday, Oct. 20, and Knox Academy vs. Riverside Christian from Fayetteville, Tenn., on Oct. 21.

The reduction is partly because of the UTC women's soccer team, which has nine games at Finley, including five on Friday nights.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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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NorthChatter said...

I hope the city continues to give the $60,000. People complain about things that get funded that few people seem to care about...well, what the city is giving Finley averages out to less than $1 per person (mainly locals) that attended UTC football last season. How many other funded programs can claim that kind of expense to use ratio?

And kudos to Finley Stadium staff. If they do have a small surplus this year, I believe that is a first in the history of Finley Stadium.

February 16, 2011 at 12:51 p.m.
Stewwie said...

When we hosted the NCAA football championship game, it was said that Finley would merely "break even" for that event. With that many people attending the game, how could it only break even? It may be worth trying to get the game again because of the overall impact for the city, but it is surprising.

Not sure why someone would want to have a dental seminar in one of the rooms at the stadium though. Was the Convention Center too expensive or something?

February 16, 2011 at 10:55 p.m.
NorthChatter said...

It typically only broke even because the NCAA was guaranteed so much of the gate...on a really good year (think ASU sellouts), the sports committee only kept about $15-20K.

But, before anyone thinks the NCAA was bleeding the even dry to make money...almost all the money made was spent on transporting and housing the two teams (and some money it provided so their bands could also appear).

FCS football championship is not a big money maker. The real benefit to Chattanooga was sold out hotels and restaurants during a time when business is normally slow.

The biggest benefit from the championship games was the school/city/sports committee/stadium corp being "forced" (if we wanted to keep the event) by the NCAA to upgrade the field and sound/video boards.

The stadium corp has done a very good job...the ask for very little from the city/county (the latter from hotel/motel tax that local don't pay), fund raise from private sources...and squeeze every penny with a very small work staff. I can say this, there is no fat in the stadium corp budget. If only the rest of the city ran so lean and efficient.

Of course, the best way to help out the stadium is to buy season tickets for Mocs football! Considering the excitement of the last two seasons, they have only increased ticket prices by about 10%. I am an alumni and a GA season ticket (5 home games) is only $32...that is an absolute steal.

February 17, 2011 at 12:13 a.m.
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