$600,000 fundraising initiative OK'd for Finley Stadium

$600,000 fundraising initiative OK'd for Finley Stadium

June 25th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sportlocal

Finley Stadium

Paul Smith, director of operations of Finley Stadium.

Paul Smith, director of operations of Finley Stadium.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

Finley Stadium's board of directors continued to firm up plans for a new football field during Tuesday's meeting.

Executive director Paul Smith already is targeting a field further down the road.

Stadium Corp. members voted for a $600,000 two-year fundraising initiative that could lead to the installation of a new surface by kickoff of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 2015 football season. Mike Davis oversees capital projects at the 20,668-seat facility and made the motion, which was quickly approved and had the resounding support of board chairman Bryan Patten.

"It's an ambitious undertaking," Patten said. "The depreciation of Finley Stadium is largely unfunded. We're almost 18 years old, and stadiums have lives of about 40 years. We have a fabulous facility, and we're trying to recognize the quality of what we have with this two-year fundraising effort.

"I'm optimistic we can carry a message to Chattanooga that we can meet this fundraising goal."

Davis said he was still negotiating the cost of the turf replacement, but Smith estimated it would be between $450,000 and $600,000. Smith had his budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year approved during Tuesday's meeting, and it included a $50,000 expense for a Davenport Field Depreciation Fund.

By adding that expense in the next 10 operating budgets, the Stadium Corp. would have $500,000 to purchase a new field again before the 2025 season.

"If you can pull this off, it will be a heck of a thing," board member Ryan Crimmins said as the budget was being approved.

Said Smith: "We need to add this. It's a real expense."

The $600,000 initiative will be conducted through the Friends of Finley Fund, which raised $1 million several years ago to replace the turf, the roof above the south stands and the facility's sound system. Patten said $64,000 has been donated to Friends of Finley with a week left in this fiscal year and that there is more than $100,000 in the fund for pressing matters.

Smith's budget for 2014-15 projects $771,200 in income and $770,000 in expenses for a $1,200 surplus. Additional revenue will come from parking, concessions and the Chattanooga Football Club soccer team, he said, while an increase in payroll and the Davenport Field fund will result in increased expenses.

The increase in payroll will be due to more cleaning duties being shifted in-house.

This year's budget shows a deficit of $2,517.92 with a week remaining. Smith expects the end result to be "fairly close to zero."

Two topics that dominated Stadium Corp. meetings earlier this year -- obtaining a beer and liquor license and installing a cell tower on the property -- remain on hold. Smith and Patten said they were proceeding toward a license, but the number of moving pieces and questions regarding liability remain a concern with several members.

"This is a big issue," Gordon Davenport said.

At the last meeting, Smith introduced a plan in which Wireless Properties would pay for installing a 150-foot high tower as well as $853 a month in the early stages of the contract. Board members encouraged Smith at the last meeting to negotiate a better price if possible and then received further encouragement after that monthly figure was made public by the Times Free Press.

"I don't feel like it's enough," Smith said, "and everybody I've talked to doesn't feel like it's enough."

The cell tower originally was expected to resemble a flag pole and house a United States flag, but it would now contain a sign promoting the three primary tenants on the premises: UTC, the Chattanooga FC and the Chattanooga Market.

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