published Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Finley Stadium board to explore taking over alcohol sales at Chattanooga facility

Paul Smith, director of operations of Finley Stadium.
Paul Smith, director of operations of Finley Stadium.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.

New Finley Stadium executive director Paul Smith said Tuesday that the time has come to explore the opportunity of taking over alcohol sales at the 20,668-seat facility.

That includes the potential of selling alcohol at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football games, provided UTC officials are open to the idea. The Stadium Corp. board of directors made a motion Tuesday to start such an exploration.

"With my arrival, everything is open for discussion," Smith said. "We just need to understand where each other stands. I would like to have it, and UTC is searching for extra revenues. There is beer being sold at the stadium already at the Stadium Club and in the skyboxes, and there is a lot of beer being consumed in the parking lots and in the pavilion before the games."

The Liberty Bowl recently began selling alcohol at University of Memphis games, though Smith said that came against university wishes. Smith would not want to press the issue if UTC chancellor Steve Angle and athletic director David Blackburn were against it.

"We currently do not have any plans to sell alcohol in the public area at any of our venues," Blackburn said Tuesday night. "However, everyone is open to hearing what possibilities are out there. Dr. Angle and I have really not talked much about it.

"I know what Paul would like to do and what a lot of people think, but he and I have not sat down and had that conversation at length."

Smith's immediate motivation for the change is the fact that 200 to 250 events happen on the property every year, ranging from the Whiskey Festival to the Chattanooga Market to road races to parties at the Stadium Club. A third-party caterer -- Family Concessions -- currently handles the events, which results in a smaller revenue piece for the Stadium Corp.

Taking over the alcohol sales also would come with new costs, ranging from insurance to training employees on the sales process.

"I fully support the alcohol idea," board member Gordon Davenport said, "but I think it is important to study the increase in insurance."

Said Ryan Crimmins: "I will move forward on the condition we get a risk analysis."

UTC's field turf, which has endured nine football seasons, also was a prominent topic Tuesday.

Mike Davis oversees capital projects for the Stadium Corp. and said the turf will last "at least one more year." The turf will undergo some cleaning and improvements this spring at a cost of $10,000 to $20,000, and a similar regrooming could occur next year if the plan is to use it through 2015.

Mocs football coach Russ Huesman has no concerns with the field right now, according to Davis, and board members were divided on how long it should remain. Crimmins would like for the field to last two more years, but Smith believes trying to get that second season could result in sizable maintenance issues.

Davis estimated the cost of a new turf at $750,000, and Smith added that Chattanooga benefits from being within 30 minutes of almost every field-turf manufacturer in the world.

"We're going to have to gear up the fundraising," Davenport said. "It sounds like a nine- to 15-month window."

Smith said the stadium's plumbing experienced 51 breaks during the frigid weather earlier this month, resulting in an estimated hit of $6,000. He said it would have been worse had Brian Wright, the facility's venue manager, not drained the plumbing system before the big chill.

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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