If all goes to plan, the Chattanooga Lookouts will be playing at a shiny new stadium in 2025, and all will be well with Cincinnati Reds officials and Major League Baseball brass.
Yet with big-league spring training games already taking place and the 2023 season rapidly approaching, groundbreaking for the stadium has not begun.
"Obviously we're always concerned, because it's an important aspect to our developmental process," Reds farm director Shawn Pender said, "but the management team between (Lookouts president) Rich Mozingo and the ownership there have done this before, and they've had a lot of success. They have a lot of connections with Major League Baseball to make sure that things happen on time, and I know how hard they all work to get the infrastructure in place to where we can do this.
"We're very excited, and I'm very confident."
Chattanooga, the Class AA affiliate of the Reds, will open its 2023 Southern League schedule April 6 in Huntsville, Alabama, before welcoming the Mississippi Braves to AT&T Field -- a facility built in 2000 that is grossly outdated by current MLB standards -- on April 11.
The new Lookouts stadium at the former U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site will be just south of 26th Street where some remaining foundry structures reside on the 120-acre parcel. The stadium's exact location will be determined following some environmental work that started in late January.
"I've walked the site, and I think it's going to be really unique if they're able to do what they've talked about," Pender said. "I think it will be one of the finer stadiums in the minor leagues and certainly an upgrade. We're just going to have so much more space for all the infrastructure that's now needed for modern baseball with the technology and a lot more of the health and performance sciences that help us do our job on the field."
The Reds will be involved in planning the multiuse facility that likely will contain 5,000 to 6,000 fixed seats but could house as many as 9,000 on occasion. Mozingo recently stated that the stadium's design would begin after the precise location is pinpointed.
"They let us know from the very beginning that they want us to be part of everything," Pender said. "The dimensions of the field may be more limited based on where they're building it and how they can incorporate that building in what will be in right field. We will be in touch on a weekly or even a daily basis as the designs start.
"Major League Baseball is very specific in what they want done, so I know we'll be involved with it very heavily."
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly recently said that he wished construction "was already cranking along," and there is the possibility the stadium could open in 2025 without fan favorites such as a "Beer Garden" or a "Kids' Zone," which would have to be implemented later.
Pender is fine with that.
"That will be a business decision by (Lookouts managing partner) Jason Freier and his group on how they want to make it," Pender said. "As far as the infrastructure on the field and in the clubhouses and the training room and weight room, that's what we really need to make sure is done for us to be there.
"At the end of the day, we have a great marriage with Chattanooga, their ownership and their management group. This is where we really want to be. I think we'll get done on time, and if not, we're still very much aligned with what they're trying to accomplish. We all just have to be patient."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org.