Planners for the proposed Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark said Thursday they're moving closer to arriving at a guaranteed maximum price tag for the South Broad District stadium.
Also, the goal remains to go to the bond market to secure $79.5 million for the project by year's end, said Jermaine Freeman, interim chief of staff for Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, at a meeting of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Sports Authority.
"We're still working through the cost of the stadium," he said in an interview after a 10-minute meeting of the panel. The aim is for the replacement for AT&T Field, where the Lookouts now play downtown, to be ready for opening day 2025, Freeman said Thursday.
Officials have expressed concern about rising inflation and interest rates. They've said a firm cost of the ballpark will be known later as the design process of the ballpark moves forward.
In Knoxville, where a stadium is underway for the Tennessee Smokies' new home, the facility was put at $65 million three years ago with a 20% contingency for overruns. But the price tag kept increasing to $114 million.
Chattanooga City Engineer Bill Payne said at the meeting that design drawings are to be completed by the end of December for the multiuse Chattanooga ballpark that is to hold from 6,000 to 7,000 seats on part of the 127-acre former U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site.
"Eventually, we'll be asking the Sports Authority to move forward with bonding and financing on the project," he said.
On Thursday, the panel agreed to authorize spending $355,600 for determining structural costs along with related deep foundation, concrete and structural steel work.
Earlier, $3.3 million was provided by the city, landowner Perimeter Properties and Lookouts entity Chattanooga Professional Baseball to pay for early work by architect DHW and construction manager EMJ Corp. Those three are to be repaid after the issuance of the bonds.
Such items are critical to the project schedule and getting to a guaranteed maximum price, Payne said.
"If we didn't do this today, we'd over-design and make bigger assumptions, which means bigger pieces of steel, which means bigger costs," he said. "Spending a very small amount of money now helps us save a lot more money in final construction."
In 2022, the city and county approved the 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.
With proposed and new investment around the stadium, upwards of $1 billion or more in development could go in the South Broad District area, officials have said.