Chattanooga Lookouts want to include old foundry buildings in new stadium design

Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / Two bicyclists uses the Tennessee Riverwalk as they pass the former U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site on Oct. 14, 2022. The former foundry property is the site of a proposed massive redevelopment in the South Broad District, including a new Chattanooga Lookouts stadium.

The location of a new Chattanooga Lookouts stadium on old foundry land may be picked soon, officials said Thursday, which will help them decide if historic buildings on the site make it into the ballpark's design.

Lookouts Chief Executive Jason Freier said at a meeting of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Sports Authority that he'd like to include some of the old existing foundry structures into the stadium itself.

"It would be amazing, unique," he said in an interview about the design of the planned $79.4 million facility in the South Broad District. "The big question is where the stadium will fit."

Attorney Mark Mamantov of the firm Bass, Berry & Sims told the sports authority that the donation of land for the stadium on the 120-acre former U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site is a key issue on which officials are working with landowner Perimeter Properties. Officials have said the donation is expected to be about 10 acres.

"We need a real site, a legal description," he said. That will enable survey work, soil drilling and the location to be platted, Mamantov said.

He said that parking and nearby access roads also need to be identified.

Mamantov, who is working with the city on the project, said the donation agreement on the stadium site could come before the sports authority next month.

He said a lot of parking in the proximity of the stadium will be in garages as development occurs around the multiuse facility. But short-term parking locations are needed because the stadium won't be downtown and people can't easily walk to it, the attorney said.

Another key document is a lease agreement, likely 50 to 70 pages, with the Lookouts, he said. Mamantov said a 30-year lease with the club has been discussed.

"That matches up with the terms of the financing," he said. But Mamantov said it must be decided "what you're leasing to the team," adding there has to be an agreement on a design.

Chattanooga officials have said that plans are to issue no more than $80 million in bonds for the proposed stadium that would replace AT&T Field near downtown's riverfront.

Brent Goldberg, the city's chief financial officer, said in an interview that the goal is to issue bonds in December or January. He said that rising interest rates aren't expected to affect the project, citing the city and county's solid bond ratings.

He said work is still expected to begin on the stadium in April, which would enable two full years of construction. Lookouts officials want to begin the 2025 baseball season in the new park.

"It can be done in less than two years," Goldberg said.

Mamantov said another lease issue is deciding community use. He said it's anticipated the ballpark will be open regularly as a public amenity and there will be a number of so-called civic event days. At Knoxville's planned new minor league stadium under construction, there are eight such days annually in the lease, the attorney said.

In addition, capital improvement provisions should be included in the lease, he said.

Mamantov also talked about a development agreement including master developer New City Properties of Atlanta, which was hired for the project.

"The whole idea is to trigger the whole development of the site," he said.

Mamantov said having agreements in place is better when going to the bond market.

Panel member Ann Weeks asked about the status of a community benefits agreement, noting there have been ongoing discussions.

Goldberg said no government entity will be a party to such an agreement, but rather, it would be between community organizations and the club, the developer and the property owner.

He said that when it comes to procurement related to the project, the city "will do as much as we legally can."

Goldberg said the city and county are still discussing the replacement of two sports authority members who earlier resigned, leaving the panel with just five people.

To help finance the stadium, the city and county already have approved creation of a special tax district around the facility. Most of the new property tax revenue from the district, Lookouts' lease payments of at least $1 million annually, sales taxes, parking revenues and $1.4 million each from the city and county will pay for debt service on the 30-year bonds, officials have said.

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