Atlanta banker John Woods continues pursuit to buy Chattanooga Lookouts

Atlanta banker John Woods continues pursuit to buy Chattanooga Lookouts

July 23rd, 2014 by David Paschall in Sportlocal

Daniel Mayora, right, and Corey Seager round the bases against the Montgomery Biscuits Tuesday at AT&T Field. Seager has just been called up to the Lookouts and is a Major League prospect.

Photo by Shawn Paik/Times Free Press.

Atlanta banking executive John Woods is still pursuing the purchase of the Chattanooga Lookouts and confirmed Tuesday that he has brought in a consultant.

Woods is working with Hardball Capital, which has a core focus on operating Minor League Baseball teams. Jason Freier is the chairman and CEO of Hardball Capital, which owns the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps and aided in the construction of Parkview Field, an 8,100-seat facility that opened in 2009 and has twice been named the top park in the minors.

Freier is a fellow Atlanta resident and a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School.

"This thing has so many moving parts," Woods said. "Jason Freier knows how to manage a baseball team. He has taken four teams from losing money to profitability, and he has already sold one of them."

Parkview Field, according to Fort Wayne media reports, was built for $30 million, with $25 million coming from public funds and $5 million from Hardball Capital. The park has spurred over $100 million in private investment and development in downtown Fort Wayne, according to Hardball Capital's website.

Hardball Capital is also helping build a new park in Columbia, S.C. The Columbia City Council last week, according to multiple media reports, voted to move forward with the $35 million project, with $29 million coming from public funds and $6 million from Hardball Capital.

Woods, a 1983 East Ridge High graduate and former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga walk-on football player, declined to speculate whether a $25-$35 million park could ever be built in Chattanooga. He did reiterate his desire for the Lookouts, the Double-A affiliates of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to stay in town.

"I have no interest going into this deal to move the Lookouts," Woods said. "I don't have any interest in buying a team in the city I grew up in only to move it. That would not be my interest going into this deal."

Woods has signed a letter of intent and continues to work toward a purchase agreement, which is a status that has remained unchanged for the last several weeks. He said the earliest for a potential sale would be late October or early November and politely requested no more interviews for a couple of months.

"I've got football to focus on," said a laughing Woods, who is the stepfather of University of Kentucky twin defensive backs Daron and Zack Blaylock.

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