Engel Stadium's overhaul will cost more than twice as much as expected

Engel Stadium is seen in this file photo.
Engel Stadium is seen in this file photo.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee State Building Commission members on Thursday approved a planned 11-acre intramural sports complex at UTC's historic Engel Stadium.

But they first questioned how the proposal more than doubled from a $3 million plan outlined in the state's 2015-2016 budget document.

"Just one question," House Speaker Beth Harwell asked University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro as he presented a list of projects, including the Chattanooga campus' planned complex. "The disclosed project cost was $3 million, yet the probable costs of the consultants were over $7 million. That's more than double the disclosed amount."

Robbi Stivers, executive director of UT's Office of Capitol Projects, explained to Harwell and other building commission members the project outlined in last year's budget document has since grown to $7.7 million with plans to develop up to four multipurpose fields, a clubhouse, disc golf and a walking track.

The total project will be funded through a combination of $4.8 million in Tennessee State School Bond Authority bonds and $2.8 million in non-auxiliary plant money, Stivers said.

That evidently was enough to address Harwell's concerns, and she and other building commission members approved the list of UT projects, including the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Engel plan, without further comment.

After the meeting, Stivers said the Engel complex proposal is "still in the design phase and then we'll have to secure a contractor and then there'll probably be, I guess, an 18-month construction period - maybe less - on what we're doing out there on what structures are needed, what infrastructure is needed, etc."

UTC officials outlined the project last year, saying it was intended to give new purpose to the 86-year-old minor league stadium where baseball greats like Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron once played while also opening it up for use by students and the surrounding community. The East Third Street stadium now is open only for special events.

At an event last year kicking off plans, UTC Chancellor Steve Angle called the proposal "a work in progress."

"We do not have this figured out yet," he said. "I look forward to working with all of you to figure out the details here."

The stadium and its parking areas comprise 27 acres. UTC officials said last year they intend to keep the baseball stadium and diamond, but thought the facility was large enough to accommodate a soccer field, as well.

In other State Building Commission action Thursday:

- Members gave the go-ahead for UTC to begin the process of selecting a designer for a $1.7 million upgrade of Fletcher Hall. The project will upgrade eight classrooms and one conference room on the 1940 building's second floor. New finishes, lighting, furnishings and technology will be installed to coordinate with the university's recently completed College of Business Student Success Center.

- Also approved were plans to proceed, with details to be approved by the state architect, on a $500,000 rehabilitation garden and outdoor classroom in the exterior courtyard north of the James A. Mapp Building.

Life Care Centers of America is providing the funding for a garden to simulate real-life conditions as students learn how to interact with physical and occupational therapy patients.

- Building Commission members also approved a $1.2 million revision in project budget, scope, funding and sources of funding for improvements at UTC's Holt Hall. That brings the total project to $8.65 million. The project already includes replacement of the building's HVAC system and other major changes. The additional funding, based on the designer's cost estimates, is for a new elevator and for unspecified "abatement."

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on twitter at AndySher1.