You don't have to educate them. You don't have to take out their garbage. But you've got to have that magnet to draw them here.
A developer who lured Bass Pro Shops to East Ridge is calling on the city and Hamilton County officials to ramp up Camp Jordan and turn it into a regional center for sports tourism.
"It's East Ridge's cow bell," said Matt Wood of Wolftever Development about Camp Jordan. "That's what we need to invest in."
Wood said that volleyball, basketball, and track and field are some sports in which Camp Jordan could focus in addition to the baseball, soccer and lacrosse fields already existing at the 200-acre site that sits adjacent to his development at Exit One of Interstate 75.
He told the East Ridge Council of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce that the existing fields should receive artificial turf to prevent rain-outs of sporting events.
"Any money spent in the park comes back to everybody. It drives people back to East Ridge," said Wood, who is developing his 50-acre tract with Ethan Wood and John Healy.
Wood said that Williamson County near Nashville is investing $100 million on sports tourism and building fields and basketball and other sports.
"They want to drive people to their hotels and to their restaurants," he said.
The developer said drawing such visitors is "easy money" for East Ridge.
"You don't have to educate them. You don't have to take out their garbage," Wood said. "But you've got to have that magnet to draw them here."
An economic impact analysis of Camp Jordan in 2016 showed the park had an impact of $9.4 million in January through November 2015 on the area, according to the Chattanooga Sports Committee.
"Don't look at [Camp Jordan] as an amenity," Wood said. "Look at it as an economic impact driver. You get your money back and lots more by spending money in the park."
He noted that Utah businessman Bob Martino plans to develop roughly 100 acres across I-75 from Wood's Exit One project. Wood said he is that project's "biggest cheerleader."
Martino, owner of Star Community Builders in Park City, Utah, and the Chattanooga Red Wolves soccer team, wants to build $125 million in new development centered around a 5,500-seat stadium. He foresees an array of restaurants, apartments, hotels, condominiums and stores in the project at I-75 and I-24.
"We're really focused on a community that you can work and play in with access to Camp Jordan and the visibility of Interstate 75," Martino said during a groundbreaking for the stadium earlier this summer. "The objective is to create an area that thrives when there are soccer games, but also is very attractive on other days to walk in a pedestrian-friendly area with options for lunch or dinner or other recreation opportunities."
Wood said Martino is seeking access from his property to Camp Jordan under the interstate so people can walk back and forth from the two sites. Martino plans to put a practice soccer facility at Camp Jordan.
Wood said he believes his Exit One project will fill up in three to four years and become a $75 million to $100 million development.
Last month, it was revealed that architectural drawings for a Topgolf entertainment complex were filed in East Ridge, but there was no application for construction.
Wood said he had no comment on whether such a complex is coming to his development.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.