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Jay Greeson

Mike Pare is a pro in the newspaper world, and it shows when he reports on stories such as the one in Sunday's TFP, which raised the question of whether a city the size of Chattanooga can support multiple stadiums.

The question is fair and needs an answer, especially if taxpayer money is going to be tapped.

We know that the ownership of the Lookouts is looking at new digs. We know that UTC would like to have a football-women's soccer-track facility. We know that the new United Soccer League team — the Chattanooga Red Wolves — has announced it is going to build a new soccer facility.

So, other than Chattanooga FC, we have several minor league teams and a Football Championship Subdivision football team looking around for better digs. And that means the folks at Finley Stadium are left with a 20,000-plus-seat venue and are wondering about the future.

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Granted, talk of the new soccer facility has never been linked to taxpayer funds, but the Lookouts and a possible new stadium have been linked to public money. The UTC facility would be paid for from donations and fund-raisers.

There also is the matter of Finley Stadium, which does get funds from the city and the county. Finley Stadium without sports is not sustainable, and even if every other franchise in town, including UTC, finds a way to pay for new venues, Finley Stadium with only the Chattanooga FC does not seem sustainable long term.

And the interesting twist to this will be if and or how hopes for new venues produce interesting partnerships.

For example, could the Lookouts and the Red Wolves look for a multipurpose facility that could fit both their needs? Could UTC be making moves behind the scenes with the soccer newcomers? The latter almost assuredly seems like a stretch because of the overlap between the public and the private.

As for the other, well, why not?

Each has similar needs. New and fancy surroundings. Modernization. Better food and accessories.

And each is privately owned, and the key word there is private.

The Red Wolves moving to town instantly created a rivalry with the Chattanooga FC. That was expected, and maybe in some ways part of the plan for the USL coming to our lovely burg.

But the Red Wolves putting their money where their motivation is — looking to build out of the gate and not asking for any taxpayer help — also makes everyone wonder how that changes the narrative for the public support folks at Hardball Capital are craving.

Hardball Capital has, in other cities in which it owns minor league baseball teams, asked for public funds in new stadium construction. It got the funding in Fort Wayne, Ind., and did not from Savannah, Ga. Hardball moved the team from Savannah to Columbia, S.C., which provided funding.

The managing bigwigs at Hardball have said they have no intention of moving the Lookouts whether the city and Hamilton County leaders play ball, but their desire for a replacement — and help with that process — for AT&T Park is clear.

If the new soccer team can build its own facility, why couldn't the Lookouts — or any other sports team for that matter — fund their hopes for new stadiums?

Sure, it's a pricey proposition. And a risky one too.

"I wouldn't put my own money into a stadium," Chris Thomas, the executive director of the group that runs Finley Stadium, told Pare.

OK. That makes sense.

But, if that's coming from the guy who runs a stadium, then maybe we all should be asking if the public's money should be going into stadiums, too.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

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