East Ridge officials support tax incentives for Red Wolves stadium project

Bob Martino, the owner of Star Community Builders and owner of the USL soccer team in Chattanooga, talks about the new soccer facility he plans to build in East Ridge during a press conference Thursday, April 25, 2019 at East Ridge City Hall in East Ridge, Tennessee. Martino said he plans to eventually build or attract up to $125 million of entertainment, housing and hotel projects on the roughly 100 acres he has under contract to buy along Interstate 75 and Interstate 24.

The owner of the Chattanooga Red Wolves soccer team expects people to see work for a new stadium within two months after getting a thumbs-up Thursday for incentives from East Ridge.

Bob Martino, owner of Star Community Builders in Park City, Utah, and the USL One soccer team, said clearing the wooded site for the 5,500-seat facility should begin first along with efforts to raise the ground level for the stadium.

"Work on the stadium is the No. 1 priority," he said about the complex that is to also include an array of restaurants, apartments, hotels, condominiums and stores in an estimated $125 million project at Interstate 75 and Interstate 24.

The East Ridge City Council voted unanimously for the Border Region Retail Development District state sales tax incentive for the project. That allows the city to recapture the growth in sales tax collections within the zone and then plow those funds back into repaying investments in the area, including the planned $6 million stadium.

The proposed project will receive 97% of the incremental state sales and use tax revenues, while the city will receive 3%, under the city's plan.

Mayor Brian Williams said the city doesn't have any costs related to the development, adding it's not providing land because the nearly 100 acres Martino is buying is private property.

"We receive a 3 percent return of their investment to our city," he said.

Also, City Manager Chris Dorsey said that given an assumption of a 50% build-out of the project, property tax revenues will jump from about $2,100 now to $336,933 annually.

"That's a very substantial increase," he said.

Meanwhile, on sales of $20 million annually, the project would receive about $880,000 a year through 2042 due to the incentive, Dorsey said.

Meanwhile, total city revenue could rise to $814,000 a year, he said.

"Those are the sort of dollars we hope the project will bring to East Ridge," Dorsey said.

Martino has said that the proposed build-out time for the project is three to five years.

City Attorney Mark Litchford said Martino's group is "very motivated." In addition, he said, there will be "a ripple effect" to the building of the complex.

"They want to keep families in the district," Litchford said.

Martino said engineers are working with the state in terms of what it will take to fill in the site and increase the ground level for the stadium. Also, he said, engineers are working on the stadium facility itself.

"We want an environment that attracts a lot of people," Martino said.

Martino's plan includes 400 apartment and condominium units, 375 hotel rooms, 475,000 square feet of commercial space and a network of walking and nature trails that could connect under I-75 with Camp Jordan on the other side of the freeway from the site.

The project, as proposed, will be the biggest investment ever in East Ridge and is projected to create up to 1,200 jobs.

Martino said he considered several sites in and around Chattanooga but picked the vacant property on the southwest corner of I-75 and I-24 because of its access, visibility and availability.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.