By the end of the year, new restaurants and entertainment venues should open near the CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge, offering Chattanooga Red Wolves fans or concertgoers the chance to eat a gourmet pizza, enjoy an adult beverage or listen to live music.
Red Wolves owner Bob Martino, who is developing 110 acres along Interstate 75 in East Ridge, unveiled the latest addition to his plans for a "live, work and play" development around the new soccer stadium.
Martino and city officials broke ground Monday on Nooga Live, a new dining and entertainment center to be built next to a Blaze Pizza, which Martino also is bringing to the city. The 10,000-square-foot commercial development will include a bar, a stage for live music and an outdoor beach volleyball court complete with sand, palm trees and a tiki bar. Martino said he hopes to also have three or four other food options in the complex.
"I look forward to seeing families enjoy this entertainment area, which will be energized by the businesses on site as well as new residents and fans who will be cheering on the Chattanooga Red Wolves next door,'" Martino said in an announcement of his latest investment. "This will be a great area for people to gather not only before and after games but also during the weekend or other times when people want to get out, get something good to eat or just have some fun."
Martino, who said he expects to ultimately spend about $20 million to fully build out the Red Wolves soccer stadium, also is currently erecting 144 townhomes nearby as part of the $140 million first phase of the development, which includes homes, apartments, restaurants and stores.
"This is the gateway to Chattanooga for people going north or south," Tennessee state Sen. Todd Gardenhire said Monday during a groundbreaking ceremony for the newest addition to the development. "To put something this beautiful on this piece of property that wasn't very beautiful before is a great addition to the Chattanooga area and he (Martino) put his own money in this deal and that was very positive to us to help add to this with this $5 million."
The Tennessee Legislature agreed to provide $5 million to the city of East Ridge to help pay for roads and infrastructure improvements in Martino's 110-acre development. The state grant was less than half the $13 million that the city of East Ridge requested from the state earlier this year, but Martino said he was grateful for the state assistance and appreciates the city of East Ridge planning to move ahead with an extension of Mack Smith Road to provide another road into The Gateway development.
Aided by $1 million of help from Hamilton County, East Ridge Mayor Brian Williams said he expects to soon receive bids for the road extension and he hopes to have it completed by the end of 2022. Along the road, Martino said he envisions more restaurants and stores to serve the stadium, townhomes, offices and apartments he is planning on the overall site. Martino plans to spend an estimated $200 million on the full development.
"This is the largest investment ever made in East Ridge and one of the largest in the Chattanooga area with an economic impact that is phenomenal," Williams said.
Over the next three decades, the phase one development outlined by Martino is projected to have a $1 billion economic impact on East Ridge, Williams said.
Despite the challenges of building a professional soccer stadium and team during the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, Martino said he wants to continue to expand the East Ridge project and is looking at another development project in Tennessee.
"I think this is the best-run state in the country, the people here are fantastic and I see a lot of opportunities here," Martino said, noting that he bought a property in Ooltewah for a new house he plans to build.
The townhomes being built near the CHI Memorial Stadium will include about 2,000 square feet of space with three bedrooms and likely be priced each at $400,000 and up. Future phases of the project will likely include a grocery store or market and other housing, offices and commercial development.
"This is East Ridge's 'field of dreams,'" Tennessee State Rep. Esther Helton told a gathering at the stadium site Monday morning. "This is going to bring so many wonderful additions to our city in the future with the 'live, work and play' environment, and I just can't thank Bob Martino enough."
The Nooga Live announced Tuesday will include the first of three Blaze Pizza franchise locations Martino plans to bring to the Chattanooga area. Blaze Pizza is a California-based pizza chain known for its savory artisanal pizzas and customizable made-to-order menu featuring fresh, natural ingredients free from artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.