published Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Ringgold, Finley a perfect match

Finley Stadium had open dates on its calendar. Ringgold High School, its athletic complex severely damaged by April’s tornadoes, needed a home field for its football games this fall. Stadium and school officials announced Tuesday that they had matched the team’s need and the stadium’s availability in a mutually beneficial manner.

Ringgold High will play its five home games at the stadium — four on Friday night and one on a Thursday night. The first, on Aug. 26, will pit the Tigers against cross-county rival Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. Ringgold coaches and players obviously would prefer to play the games on home turf, but Finley is the next best thing.

Most high school players don’t have the opportunity to play in a college stadium — Finley is home to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Ringgold players will.

Moreover, it’s not far from Ringgold to Finley. The distance is unlikely to deter many of the school’s loyal fans. Attendance at the Southside stadium should be robust. Best of all, school and stadium officials brokered a deal that is hard to beat.

Ringgold will not pay rent at the stadium. It will pay for expenses — security and lighting, for example — normally borne by a host team at any athletic contest. The Stadium Corp., which oversees Finley’s operations, will get all concession revenues. The school and the stadium will share parking revenue. That is an equitable arrangement.

Ringgold is no longer a team in search of a home. They have one for the season. And while the school might not make as much money at Finley as it would from games on school property, the negative financial impact is likely to be minimal given the agreement announced by Robert Akins, Ringgold’s coach, and Merrill Eckstein, Finley’s executive director.

Finley benefits, too. It will not collect rent, but it will gain some revenue. It might not be a great amount, but it is more than the corporation would make if the stadium went unused on the dates of the five Ringgold football games. The entity that operates the stadium often struggles to post a profit, and additional revenue from the Ringgold games should help reach that desirable goal.

The circumstance that prompted the Ringgold-Finley pact is unique. The agreement should not be. Similar flexibility about rent and revenues from stadium officials might result in increased use of the facility by area schools and other entities in search of a first-class venue to call home.

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