As more than 30,000 fans were filing into Finley Stadium last month for a pair of touted soccer matches, Paul Smith had more on his mind than just the accommodations.
Smith announced Tuesday afternoon that he was resigning as executive director of the 20,668-seat facility built 20 years ago. He added that he would help with the transition if needed.
"After the U.S. men's national team game, I kept getting asked, 'What's next?'" Smith said. "I don't know if I just lost passion, but I knew it was time. Between the Chattanooga Market and Finley Stadium, I've worked almost every weekend since my 11-year-old was 18 months.
"By doing this now, they can get someone in place before the start of the Chattanooga FC season."
After becoming general manager of the Chattanooga Market at the First Tennessee Pavilion in 2008 and turning that into a popular destination for Chattanooga-area residents on Sunday afternoons, Smith moved next door in the summer of 2013. He worked with former Finley Stadium executive director Merrill Eckstein for the final six months of that year before taking the reins on Jan. 1, 2014.
Under Smith's guidance the stadium has enjoyed its three most profitable years, surpassing $1 million in revenue for the first time in 2016. Smith was hired at a salary of $75,000 and received a performance-based bump to $86,500 during the summer of 2015.
"We're in the best financial position we've ever been in," former Stadium Corp. board chairman Bryan Patten said last March.
Growing up a "faculty brat" on the McCallie School campus and selling Cokes at Chamberlain Field when former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman played for the Mocs, Smith was a 1984 graduate of Page High School in Franklin, Tenn. He spent 12 years in the automotive paint business before returning to school at UTC and graduating summa cum laude in sports administration in 2001.
Smith said there are "prospects" regarding his next endeavor in Chattanooga, but he did not want to elaborate for now.
"I think my track record speaks for itself as far as taking something that needs to be fixed," he said. "I think that's my skill, and I want another good challenge. This was a tough, demanding job, and it's not the kind of job you keep forever. It was just the right time for me to step away.
"I'm really proud of the turnaround and all the partnerships that made it possible. We've turned it into a true community stadium."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.