Hamilton County mayoral candidate Weston Wamp has released survey results showing opposition to a proposed stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts in the South Broad District.
According to a survey by Spry Strategies for Wamp's campaign:
- 65% of voters believe the decision should be put on hold until after Sept. 1, when a new mayor takes office, while 18% say the project should not be put on hold.
- 34.7% of voters strongly oppose the project, compared to 14.7% who strongly support it. Overall, 58% oppose the stadium while 31% support it. 11% have no opinion.
"The proposition of a new stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts funded by taxpayer dollars is overwhelmingly opposed by both city and county voters," Ryan Burrell, president and founder of Spry Strategies, said in a news release. "The opposition crossed important demographics including gender, ethnicity, and party affiliation.
"Anyone who would say this is anything less than a scientific survey and remotely suggesting this was a push poll is simply wrong."
Outgoing Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger issued a scathing assessment of the poll Tuesday afternoon.
"The results of a misleading push poll should not be seen as anything other than a desperate attempt to discredit numerous public meetings and years of hard work that have gone into building something great for the residents of Hamilton County," Coppinger said in an email from his communications manager Mike Dunne. "I wonder what this poll would have shown if respondents had been reminded that not one penny of existing tax dollars will go to fund the stadium and that it could catalyze up to $1 billion in new investment in Chattanooga, over $200 million of which has already been committed?"
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly also took issue with the poll.
"The results of a push poll that uses misleading questions to get biased answers should never be used to gauge public support for such a vital project for Chattanooga," Kelly said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. "As a candidate, I was on the wrong end of a push poll done by the same firm, and if it had been accurate, I would not be mayor. They are merely done to create the impression of momentum in public sentiment but have gained a well-deserved reputation for being misleading, because they are - they're designed to be, on purpose.
"The reality is, everyone agrees that this rusting eyesore should be redeveloped and that a multiuse stadium is the key - the ONLY key yet discovered, notably - to unlocking hundreds of millions of dollars in surrounding new development, which will not only pay for the stadium itself, but create tens of millions in excess revenue to help fund our schools. What we need people to understand - and I can't say this clearly enough - is that not one penny of existing tax dollars will go to fund the stadium. Let's get the story straight and gauge public opinion around facts.
Coppinger and Kelly have proposed a $79.5 million stadium for the minor league baseball team at the former Wheland Foundry site, which they say is a gateway to the city that now stands as an eyesore. Wamp has been raising questions about the project timeline and finances.
The election is Aug 4. Wamp, the Republican nominee, will face Democrat Matt Adams, who has been more supportive of the stadium plan.
The survey also asked voters about crime. According to Wamp's campaign, 90% of voters believe Chattanooga has a gang problem, including 62% who strongly believe there is a gang problem, while 5% do not believe there is a gang problem.
The survey of 406 likely mayoral election voters was conducted on July 5-7 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.