Wider premium seats coming to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga

Wider premium seats coming to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga

December 6th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

The process of replacing premium seating has begun at Finley Stadium. When the nearly $300,000 project is complete, there will be one lower-level section of premium seats and three upper-level sections.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Thinking about having that third hot dog or third slice of pizza at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football games or Chattanooga FC soccer matches next year?

No worries. Bigger seats are coming to Finley Stadium.

Chris Thomas, the executive director of Finley Stadium, and Gordon Davenport, the Stadium Corp. board chairman, announced Tuesday that the 19-inch-wide blue premium seats at the 20-year-old facility have deteriorated and are being replaced by new blue seats that are 21 inches wide. There have been 3,469 premium seats at Finley, but only 1,566 of the wider seats are being installed.

"The blue seats are past their use," Davenport said. "We are replacing four sections and will have fewer of those seats in order to right-size them with the demand. That said, there is nothing keeping us from growing our premium seat sections over time."

Bench seating will make up most of the difference from the premium-seat sections that are not being replaced, with improvements to handicap access factoring into that as well. Thomas said the new seating plan will result in a total drop of 256 seats, which would take the stadium's capacity from 20,668 to 20,412.

The cost of the project will be $289,204, according to Thomas, including $20,000 for the handicap access that board member Mike Davis described as "long past due."

Premium seating now will be in just four sections: 106, 205, 206 and 207. Thomas said the new seating will not be ready for the friendly between the Chattanooga FC and FC Dallas on Feb. 3 but that it will be in place by the start of the CFC season.

"These new seats should last 20 years," Thomas said.

For the first time in several years, neither UTC nor CFC reached league playoffs, which resulted in the reduction of sizable events the stadium has hosted in recent months. Beer sales from the first three months of this fiscal year were off $74,512 compared to last year, while total food and beverage was off $98,867.

Outside catering events, including one for the Ironman in late September, helped counter the absence of playoff games, according to Thomas. Finley's net income for the first three months of the fiscal year is $109,884, compared to $127,645 at this point last year.

"If we don't have people, we can't sell them anything," Thomas said. "The next three to four months could be painful in terms of a lack of revenue, but I think we're in good shape for the winter."

Finley Stadium and the neighboring First Tennessee Pavilion already have 167 events contracted for 2018, with the first big event being the friendly between CFC and FC Dallas that was announced Tuesday.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.