Imagination Station
This is the place for people who love the outdoors.

Ben Wygal looks like a business executive who just stepped out of a Chamber of Commerce meeting as he stands smartly dressed in a coat and tie in front of hundreds of children and their parents playing at Imagination Station in Collegedale. He's the only person wearing a tie anywhere near the city hall complex.

Wygal, a retired college president and health care executive, chose to retire in Collegedale 17 years ago. The easy assumption is that Wygal retired to Collegedale in 2002 because of his roots in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. After all, the presence of Southern Adventist University, founded in 1892, and McKee Foods Corporation, founded in 1934, has caused the community of 12,000 to be known as an Adventist. Once virtually 100 percent Adventist, the city in eastern Hamilton County is now more 50-50 with families not tied to the church, residents say.

"I retired from a walking community in Maryland," says Wygal, who was the first academic dean at Dalton State College in 1963. "That's what I see the center of Collegedale being in the future."

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Benjamin Wygal poses for a photo at the Imagination Station in Collegedale.

Wygal owns a home in Greenbriar Cove, a retirement community developed by Greg Vital and Franklin Farrow. The community is walking distance from city hall, around which an evolving city center is developing. A clock tower built in 2018 signals the entrance to the area that now includes The Commons, an event-centered complex that features a weekly farmers market. It joins city hall, the public library and the Imagination Station playground across the street from Veterans Park and the winding greenway along Wolftever Creek.

Plans going forward for the complex, largely governed by the Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation, include a bed and breakfast, music venue, retail/restaurant development and an 11-acre park dedicated to open space and outdoor activities. The development has largely been funded by private donors with long-term interests in Collegedale, such as the McKees, but a stable local government is a financial partner with the foundation. The future ideas please Wygal.

"When I first drove down Ooltewah-Ringgold Road in the '60s, none of this was here," he says, "and now look at it. This is the place for people who love the outdoors. There's the greenway and the college has 26 miles of walking trails. Then there's all that is going to happen around The Commons. There's a pace to living out here, and it's a good, safe place.

White Oak Mountain splits Collegedale from north to south. The evolving city center sits to the west of White Oak; Southern University and its sprawling campus filled with 3,000 students to the east. Collegedale has been one of the fastest-growing cities in Tennessee over the past decade, due in part to the Volkswagen facility located less than two miles from the city limits. However, the city is landlocked and population growth will slow.

"The city has roots, and that's important," says Wygal, "but there is a great mixture of people in Collegedale. It's crazy how much it has grown."

Where he eats

Wygal says the "best carrot cake in Hamilton County" is served daily at the Southern Adventist University cafeteria. The cafeteria is open to the public and features an international vegetarian selection.




Median household income: $52,931

Population: 10,902

Median age: 33.6

White: 73.2%

Hispanic: 12.2%

African-American: 7.7%

Asian: 4.7%

Two or more races: 2.2%

*2017 estimates.

Source: 2017 American Community Survey



Median sales price: $160,900 in 2018; $233,000 in 2017

New listings: 1 in 2018; 1 in 2017

Sales closed: 1 in 2018; 1 in 2017

Source: Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors annual report

The largest share of households have a property value between $200,000 and $250,000.

The current property tax rate in Collegedale is $1.2594 per $100 of assessed value, which is on top of the Hamilton County property tax rate of $2.2770 per $100 of assessed valuation. The local sales tax rate is 2.25%, plus the state's 7%.




In addition to the zoned Hamilton County public schools below, Collegedale has a K-12 school system affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Apison Elementary (preK-5)

Enrollment: 571

Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 5/5 in language arts, 4/5 in math, 3/5 in science

» Apison was named a 2018 Reward School, the top distinction a school can earn in Tennessee, for improving overall student academic achievement and student growth for all students and student groups. In 2018, about 20 percent of schools in the state earned Reward status. Fourth-grade teacher Sara Pratt was selected as a Southeast Region-level finalists for 2018 Tennessee Teacher of the Year.

Ooltewah Elementary (preK-5)

Enrollment: 988

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 4/5 in language arts, 3/5 in math, 1/5 in science

» About 150 homes and families will be rezoned from Ooltewah Elementary to Snow Hill for the 2019-20 school year as Hamilton County Schools completes an addition to Snow Hill that adds 240 seats to the elementary school. The proposed new district lines significantly increase Snow Hill's zone but attempt to keep feeder patterns intact. The Snow Hill addition will add 12 classrooms, a music room, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) lab and a multipurpose lab.

Wolftever Creek Elementary (preK-5)

Enrollment: 542

Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 5/5 in language arts, 3/5 in math, 5/5 in science

East Hamilton School (6-12)

Enrollment: 1,757

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 2/5 in language arts, 1/5 in math, 1/5 in science

Average ACT score: 22.3 composite

» The career-oriented applications instilled with the opening of one of several tech-heavy Volkswagen eLabs in fall 2017 has continued as East Hamilton High launched the Bryan College Institute of Leadership, Business and Marketing and the Institute of Innovate Engineering in 2018 as part of the district's Future Ready initiative. Already suffering from overcrowding after opening in 2009, EHS will be split with the construction of a new middle school. The $42 million facility is due to open in time for the 2020-21 school year.

Ooltewah Middle

Enrollment: 746

Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 4/5 in language arts, 3/5 in math, 5/5 in science

» Students here have more hands-on opportunities thanks to one of the 16 Volkswagen eLabs in select schools across the district. Filled with digital fabrication tools, including automated manufacturing equipment, programmable microcomputers, renewable energy kits, 3-D printers, robotics and laser cutters, the labs are staffed by well-versed professionals in an overall effort to supply kids with skills directly relevant to the workforce.

Ooltewah High

Enrollment: 1,556

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 3/5 in language arts, 1/5 in math, 4/5 in science

Average ACT score: 20.4 composite

» One of only two schools in the district with an International Baccalaureate program, Ooltewah High, along with Signal Mountain Middle/High, is the site of an Institute of International Baccalaureate Studies as part of the district's Future Ready initiative. Launched in 2018, the Institutes partner with the local business community to offer career-themed education through small, targeted learning communities within each high school. OHS is also home to the Institute of Architecture and Engineering Design and the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and Mechatronics.

Source: 2018 State Report Card, HCDE

*The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scale runs from 1-5, with 1 denoting the least effective schools/districts and least amount of progress toward the Standard for Academic Growth.


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Imagination Station


Outdoor activities are plentiful in Collegedale. Imagination Station, located behind city hall (4910 Swinyar Drive), connects to the 3.5-mile Collegedale Greenway. The paved multi-modal path crosses underneath Apison Pike along Wolftever Creek where Veterans Memorial Park celebrates military veterans. It ends at the intersection of Tallant Road and Apison Pike near the Nature Nook, an amphitheater situation an urban forest setting. It also takes walkers to the Collegedale Dog Park (5225 Tallant Road), which is a fenced-in, off-leash facility.

The outdoor facilities at Southern Adventist University (4881 Taylor Circle) are open to the local community as well. The walking trails along Bauxite Ridge and White Oak Mountain span more than 30 miles, stretching from the lowest point of the valley to the ridge top overlooking the university. The school also offers a disc golf course, putting green, track, tennis courts, outdoor volleyball, indoor rock wall and pool, fitness center and more.



The Commons is a 30-acre complex near city hall that includes Founders Hall, a 10,000-square-foot event facility opened in 2018. The hall features a commissioned mural showing the faces and history of Collegedale's 51-year history and is the site of a variety of public events, including movie night on the second Tuesday of each month. The event space also features a weekly farmers market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with more than 40 vendors.




Collegedale Public Library

9318 Apison Pike; 423-396-9300

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday, Sunday: 1-5 p.m.



35 means 35 in Collegedale. Collegedale City Court takes place at 3 p.m. each Wednesday at city hall. It's the day each week when parking is full at the city hall complex off Apison Pike. The reason: Collegedale's police officers are known to be sticklers for enforcing the speed limit.

The Collegedale City Commission meets every first and third Monday at 6 p.m. A full schedule and agenda of past and upcoming meetings can be found at

Recycling: Curbside pickup is offered through an independent provider for a monthly fee. The city also offers a drop-off center at 769 Sanborn Drive that accepts regular recyclables save for glass and electronics.

The Collegedale Park & Recreation Department offers programming ranging from children's handbells to a pickleball beginners clinic to "senior stretch."



The Garden Club of Ooltewah-Collegedale meets the fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the East Room at Collegedale City Hall, 4910 Swinyar Drive.

The Kiwanis Club Foundation of Ooltewah-Collegedale, part of a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time, meets every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at Collegedale City Hall, 4910 Swinyar Drive. Visitors welcome.

Another international organization that strives to meet the needs of local communities and the world, the Ooltewah/Collegedale Lions Club meets the first and third Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Garden Plaza of Greenbriar Cove, 4586 Forsythia Way.