The Chattanooga Football Club Foundation is hoping to build three multipurpose fields near downtown as the city looks to develop 13 acres in Chattanooga's Southside.
The land, located at Montague Park on East 23rd Street, is bordered to the north by The Sculpture Fields at Montague Park — a 33-acre public park with close to 50 sculptures from all over the world and is in a unique spot for economic growth and development.
Currently, the city is seeking proposals for the development of the land.
"The sculpture park is a really great asset for the city," said Sheldon Grizzle, Chattanooga Football Club president and CFC Foundation board member. "If we can bring hundreds of people out there every single day to the fields that could be used for several different sports, it will dramatically increase the traffic of the park."
After proposals are made, the city will award a contract sometime in October or November. The intent for the site is to benefit and be utilized to the greatest extent for citizens of Chattanooga, according to the request for proposals.
The board of trustees of The Sculpture Fields at Montague Park plans to make a proposal as well.
"In keeping with the mission of the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park, the intentions of the board's proposal will be totally dedicated for maximum public use for all citizens, as has been, and will continue to be, the stated desire of Mrs. Mary Montague when she deeded this land to the city in honor of her deceased husband, Mr. Theodore Montague," said Carolyn Kaufman, Board of Trustees chair of The Sculpture Fields at Montague Park said.
Kaufman also told the Times Free Press the original plan for the sculpture park, opened in 2016, is to have 75 sculptures on exhibit.
"The Curational Committee is approached continuously by internationally acclaimed sculptors for an opportunity to be displayed in Montague Park," she said.
The city obtained the Montague Park property on Dec. 22, 1911, in a deed from Mary T. Montague.
The Montague family has made it known they will oppose any commercial use that may be proposed, as they support public use throughout the park.
"My great-grandfather and great-grandmother gave this land to the city for people to enjoy a park," Carrington Montague told the Times Free Press on Friday. "Everyone wants recreation and access. Back at the turn of the last century it was a place for people to go and sit under the shade trees to get away from the city. We hope that a long generation of Montague's to come continue to make sure it is a park open to all."
Montague said he has been blown away by how many recreational areas other cities have, and he hopes the same for the Scenic City.
"In Chattanooga, we don't have many that people can enjoy," he said.
The grounds to be developed were formerly used as a softball and baseball complex but had to be closed because of contamination caused by being built over a former city landfill. A rugby team also had built a field on the grounds and cleaned up the property, but its lease has expired and won't be renewed.
"This will be a good community proposal that incorporates different aspects of arts and recreation," Grizzle said. "It will have several different aspects to where the development of the land is mutually beneficial for all parties involved."
Chattanooga FC Foundation is a separate 501(c)3 and looks to involve the Chattanooga Rugby Football Club and some other partners in its bid.
The CFC Foundation is comprised of two programs: Chattanooga Sports Ministries and Operation Get Active in close partnership with Highland Park Commons.
Highland Park Commons, located on 2000 Union Ave., was opened in November 2011 and has served the community with six futsal courts and two larger fields to play soccer and other sports on. Futsal is a variant of soccer featuring five players on each side.
The fields have sparked an interest in the city and attracted "hundreds" on a daily basis to play games on.
A pre-bid meeting was held at the site Wednesday morning, and a city panel will review the proposals on Sept. 10 and make a recommendation.
Deed restrictions require the city to retain ownership of the 13-acre land. However, the city is open to entering into a long-term ground lease, for a term not to exceed 40 years, with development and construction of facilities on the property being an approved use.
With hopes to continue the growth of soccer in the city and expand areas of play, CFC Foundation has high hopes for its bid.
"With the demographics changing rapidly in the city and soccer becoming more popular with other sports, it's a logical step to have some accessible field space in the city," Grizzle said. "We believe there should be multisport fields that can be used for soccer, football, lacrosse and many other sports."