Finley Stadium executive director Merrill Eckstein expects a $50,000 surplus for the 2013 fiscal year, which would be the third record surplus in as many years.
Eckstein said Tuesday that the 20,668-seat facility has a current surplus of $58,534 but that more utilities and another round of payroll will be due by the end of the month. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had an average home attendance of 9,521 last football season, which was slightly down compared to the three previous years, but a mild winter resulted in significantly lower expenses.
"Timing has to be right, and my timing was right," a smiling Eckstein said. "We wouldn't be generating a surplus if the Mocs weren't putting 10,000 people a game in here. Before Russ Huesman, B.J. Coleman and company, how much were they generating in parking and concessions? My wife and I were season-ticket holders, and I can promise you there were games where there weren't 1,500 live bodies in the stands.
"A huge credit goes to UTC football for the turnaround, and to a lesser extent has been the arrival of the Chattanooga FC. Their crowds are not of the scope as UTC's crowds, but we still generate a nice chunk of money from the concessions."
Finley Stadium had a surplus of $46,846 for the 2012 fiscal year and $19,900 in 2011. In the 2010 fiscal year, which was the first with Eckstein as operator, the stadium suffered a $15,000 loss.
Eckstein will be stepping aside at the end of the 2013 calendar year and will work with his successor during the first few months of '14. That will result in a payroll increase, so a similar surplus is not expected this time next year.
"We will have a genuine break-even budget in the upcoming fiscal year," Eckstein said. "I do not expect a large surplus like we've had the last couple of years. This upcoming fiscal year will be tight."
A motion was approved for the 2014 budget, which contains $646,000 in projected total revenues and $644,900 in total expenses. The revenue projection is up from this year's actual total of $637,322 due to UTC having six home games this football season as part of a 12-game schedule overall.
As for the Friends of Finley fund, Stadium Corp. chairman Bryan Patten said $63,000 has been pledged and he hopes to match or even exceed his goal of $75,000.
"We will be very close," Patten said.
Sale Creek home?
Sale Creek High School is considering an agreement to play four home games during its inaugural football season at Finley Stadium, according to Eckstein. Those would be the only high school football contests scheduled this year, other than the annual jamboree in August.
The Baylor-McCallie game will be held at Baylor.
Odds and ends
Ryan Crimmins and Eckstein discussed the possibility of moving the "Wall of Champions" signs to a less profound area of the stadium. The signs commemorate the 13 Championship Subdivision title-game winners at Finley Stadium from 1997 to 2009, but the FCS title contest has been held the past three years in Frisco, Texas. ... For a second consecutive Stadium Corp. meeting, the topic of installing high-definition televisions throughout the skyboxes, stadium club and concourse areas was discussed. ... Eckstein praised the Chattanooga FC for drawing more than 2,000 fans for all three home games so far and added, "This is our best year from a relationship standpoint that we've had."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
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 ...