Firm that worked on Atlanta Braves ballpark joins Chattanooga Lookouts stadium team

Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / Buildings are shown on the old U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site on Feb. 28. The property in the South Broad District is the location of the planned new Chattanooga Lookouts stadium.
Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / Buildings are shown on the old U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site on Feb. 28. The property in the South Broad District is the location of the planned new Chattanooga Lookouts stadium.

A Chattanooga company was picked Thursday to oversee pre-construction work on the new Lookouts multiuse stadium, and it will join with a firm that played a key role in building the Atlanta Braves' Truist Park.

EMJ Construction was hired as construction manager for $206,133 to work with architects through this year to provide services and help come up with costs for the planned new minor league baseball stadium.

City Engineer Bill Payne told the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Sports Authority that EMJ also will work with Brasfield & Gorrie, a construction firm that has experience on stadiums, including Truist Park.

Brasfield & Gorrie was managing partner of the joint venture that built the Cobb County, Georgia, facility, according to its website. It will work as a subcontractor for EMJ, officials said.

Payne said EMJ's timeline of work will run through the majority of 2023 and provide guidance and recommendations for the design team.

"They'll provide costs based on drawings in the design phase," he said. "They're very experienced in being able to price things out."

Payne said that bringing on EMJ will "reduce the likelihood that we'll have an extravagantly priced set of design documents."

Jermaine Freeman, interim chief of staff for Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, told the authority that the hiring of EMJ is vital to arriving at a final price tag for the facility slated to go up on the old U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site in the South Broad District.

EMJ will work with recently hired executive architect DH&W "to make sure we get to a good quality design that's in a budget we all can afford and then we can go from there," he said.

Officials earlier said the authority planned to issue up to $79.5 million in bonds to fund construction of the new stadium, but rising inflation is a concern. They said a more firm cost of the ballpark will be known after the design process has started and the construction manager was hired.

Freeman said he's hopeful the authority can go to the bond market for financing within the next few months.

He said the action taken Thursday will help the stadium project stay on track to open for the start of the Lookouts season in 2025. EMJ will be paid from the proceeds of the bonds, Freeman said.

  photo  Contributed Rendering / New renderings of the new Chattanooga Lookouts Stadium were unveiled at a meeting of the Chattanooga Sports Authority, at the Chattanooga City Hall, on April 13, 2023.
 
 

BENEFITS AGREEMENT

Also Thursday, the authority heard from representatives of local groups that are talking with the Lookouts and the owners of the foundry land on a community benefits agreement.

Chandra Ward, speaking on behalf of Chattanoogans in Action for Love, Equality and Benevolence, or CALEB, and a coalition of South Broad groups, said at the meeting that "development should happen with us, the community, and not to us."

She said negotiations for the community benefits agreement are at the beginning stages. Ward said while city government can't enter into such an agreement, cooperation from it and the authority is needed.

Geoffrey Meldahl, who's working with CALEB and the coalition, told the panel that the city and the authority can be "a good advocate" for issues such as hiring, housing, transportation, safety and the environment in South Chattanooga.

"We want to make sure these things don't slip through the cracks," he said. "We want to make sure this project provides opportunities for Chattanoogans."

Meldahl cited, for example, the idea of a multimodal transit center, extended bus routes and connections to The Howard School in the district.

Authority member Ann Weeks said that traffic in the district is "a hot button."

"Right now we're in a transition," she said at the meeting. "We really need a plan not just for the stadium."

Weeks said she doesn't want the city "caught by surprise on opening day. I don't want a tsunami" of traffic.

In 2022, the city and county approved creation of a special tax district around the planned stadium. Most of the new property tax revenue from the district along with Lookouts' lease payments, sales taxes, parking revenues and $1.4 million each from the city and county will pay debt service on 30-year bonds for the project, officials said.

Officials have said that with proposed and new investment around the stadium, upwards of $1 billion or more in new development could go in the area.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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