The next chairman of Finley Stadium's board of directors will be the son of the first one.
Gordon Davenport, whose late father spearheaded the drive for the 20,668-seat facility in Chattanooga's Southside, will replace Bryan Patten as the board chair in January. Davenport will serve as a vice chairman for the next six months but will maintain his current responsibilities, which will allow Patten to continue working with Finley Stadium executive director Paul Smith.
Finley Stadium became the football home of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in October 1997. It was built for $28.5 million, with the late Davenport leading the effort to raise 40 percent of the project through private donations.
"I never planned to follow him — I really didn't," Davenport said Tuesday. "I just got the bug the last few years, and it started when we replaced the turf (after the 2004 Football Championship Subdivision title game). I've had a passion about this place and what it means to Chattanooga and what it means beyond sporting events. My dad saw this as much bigger than just a place to hold a sporting event, and I deeply believe in that and am energized by it.
"It's a big responsibility and a big honor. We've got a great staff that will make it easy, but we've also got a lot of opportunities for work."facebookfacebook
Davenport's father died in February 1998, just a few months after 22,646 fans packed Finley's dedication game to see the Mocs beat Tennessee State 28-7. Finley housed the FCS title game from 1997 to 2009, drawing a facility-record 23,010 fans in 2007, when Appalachian State overwhelmed Delaware and its touted quarterback, Joe Flacco.
Joe Decosimo became Stadium Corp. chairman after Davenport's death, and he was followed by Frank Kinser, Ryan Crimmins and Patten. Kinser and Crimmins have remained on the board of directors.
Patten will wind up serving as chairman for more than a decade, experiencing his share of highs and lows along the way. In 2008, UTC went 1-11, lost 10 games by 20 or more points and had an average home attendance of 5,748. The Mocs have averaged more than 10,000 fans at home games four of the last six seasons.
"We've gone from starvation to humiliation to gradual credibility to real credibility," Patten said. "Now we're even recognized as a soccer power."
The Chattanooga Football Club soccer team has impacted Finley Stadium's finances, especially last summer, when 9,236 spectators attended a semifinal match and 18,227 saw the title match of the National Premier Soccer League. Then the U.S. women's national team played an exhibition that drew 20,535.
That resulted in a quick start to the 2015-16 fiscal year for the stadium, which nearing Thursday's finish line has a surplus of about $191,000. Smith's projected budget for 2016-17, which calls for $1.615 million in revenue and $1.415 million in expenses for a $200,000 surplus, was approved during Tuesday's meeting.
"Food and beverage performed a lot better than we anticipated, and parking performed better," Smith said, "but while revenues look good, we still have some challenges ahead of us."
Said board member Mike Davis: "We have equipment that has been running for 19 years that should have run for 11 or 12."
Davis, who oversees projects for the Stadium Corp. board, received the go-ahead to install sliding-glass windows on one of the 12-seat skyboxes. The trial run is projected to cost $27,000.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.