City of Chattanooga reviewing annual Finley funding

City of Chattanooga reviewing annual Finley funding

February 16th, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports

File photo by Robin Rudd. Finley Stadium

A second consecutive winning season by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team resulted in record revenue at Finley Stadium this past fall, but the city of Chattanooga has yet to commit to funding for the facility in the next fiscal year.

The city, which has provided $60,000 to the Stadium Corp. each of the past four years, has asked board chairman Bryan Patten to submit paperwork within the next few days that will be reviewed by its budget committee chaired by Carol Berz. The county also provides $60,000 annually through the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and UTC is responsible for $10,000 per home football game.

"I don't have a sense of optimism or pessimism," Patten said Tuesday. "I think it's responsible on their part, and we'll submit the paperwork timely and accurately."

Richard Beeland, the director of communications for the city, said the budget committee is examining every entity that seeks funding.

"We're not just going to continue funding people who have been receiving funding for years without discussing what they're doing with that money and how they're planning to use it," Beeland said. "The money that the county pays to the Stadium Corp. comes out of sales tax dollars and does not come out of their general fund, and our council is looking at that, too. There are a lot of questions the council has that they want answered about this.

"But no one should be intimidated by this process or consider it a reason not to get funded. It's just better oversight of taxpayer dollars."

Patten said he normally receives "body language" by this time of year from the city that another $60,000 will be provided. Should the city reduce or eliminate its funding, the Stadium Corp. would have to look into increasing event fees, parking and concessions.

Finley Stadium had a record 61.44 percent capacity level in the 2010 football season as 63,494 fans attended the five home games. UTC's average home attendance of 12,699 ranked 24th nationally in the Championship Subdivision, third in the Southern Conference behind Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, and it dwarfed the 5,767 average Finley had in 2008.

The Stadium Corp. received a record $80,531 in concessions and a record $48,212 in parking fees. It also forked out a record $90,857 in event service personnel.

"We used to have 15 to 18 officers a game," Finley Stadium executive director Merrill Eckstein said. "Now we need 36."

Said board member Ryan Crimmins: "That's a good problem to have."

The Stadium Corp. had a budget deficit of about $15,000 during the 2009-10 fiscal year, but Eckstein is projecting a surplus of $12,115 for this one. He has a proposed budget for 2011-12 that calls for a surplus of $26,100.

Although 2011 is less than 50 days old, there are 166 events scheduled this year for the stadium, the First Tennessee Pavilion and the stadium club. The events range from UTC football to dental seminars.

"This community is using this stadium and pavilion big time," board member Gordon Davenport said.

Renovations coming

The Stadium Corp. made a motion Tuesday to spend $100,000 on repairs, an estimated half of which will go to seal-coating and restriping the parking spaces in the north parking lot and the pavilion parking area. Board member Mike Davis was given the authority to prioritize additional repairs, such as cleaning sidewalks and concourses and replacing caulking at all joints in concrete walks and walls at the field level.

Such renovations will be funded by Friends of Finley, which has $175,000 in its account, according to Patten.

Prep games dwindling

With East Hamilton planning to have a field with lighting this season and with the Baylor-McCallie rivalry scheduled at Baylor, high school football games at Finley could be scarce. The only games scheduled are Howard vs. Tyner on Thursday, Oct. 20, and Knox Academy vs. Riverside Christian from Fayetteville, Tenn., on Oct. 21.

The reduction is partly because of the UTC women's soccer team, which has nine games at Finley, including five on Friday nights.

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