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Staff file photo / The Chattahooligans supporters section cheers before Chattanooga Football Club's soccer match against Detroit City FC on April 6, 2019, at Finley Stadium.

When Stadium Corp. board members met in February, they were beaming about a new AstroTurf surface and a 2020 calendar at Finley Stadium and its neighboring First Horizon Pavilion consisting of 213 events and climbing rapidly.

The Stadium Corp. conducted its first Zoom meeting Tuesday, with much having changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finley's campus helped house the Chattanooga Marathon in early March, but the 20,412-seat stadium and the pavilion were closed just days before the Chattanooga Football Club was scheduled to host its first home match as a professional member of the National Independent Soccer Association. There hasn't been a match or any other event gathering since.

"We've had this six-week storm that has blown events off our calendar," Finley Stadium executive director Chris Thomas said. "More than a quarter of a million dollars of events have disappeared during this stretch. We were supposed to have the 4 Bridges Arts Festival this past weekend, and they are repositioned to September, but many of our spring and summer events were restaurant driven and food and drink driven, and we unfortunately don't see them coming back.

"This weekend is usually the happiest weekend of my year, being that it's normally the reopening of the Chattanooga Market, and we're canceled. It will be the first time in the history of the market we haven't opened on this weekend. The market vendors will lose about $1.3 million of revenues during the planned five-week closure that we have in place right now. It's pretty massively damaging."

Four CFC home matches already have been scratched by the coronavirus outbreak, with CFC managing director Jeremy Alumbaugh announcing Tuesday that the remaining three spring matches at Finley are canceled as well.

"Our spring season, which was to end in June from a league standpoint, won't happen," Alumbaugh said. "Our summer and fall seasons are in the planning stages, and we're looking at a number of exhibitions or friendly-type games in the summer. They most likely will have to take place behind closed doors. Our hope is to have a full fall schedule starting in September and going through November.

"Whether those are modified crowds or behind closed doors will be dependent on local agencies and from a national soccer standpoint. We need revenue, so we will be looking at ways to be creative."

The Stadium Corp. is burning through $30,000 to $40,000 a month without any events, according to Thomas, who like many has been forced to cut personnel. Thomas said a big Finley Stadium event last year, such as a CFC match or a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football game, was accompanied by a staff of 93 workers.

Thomas said he had a staff of 58 set for the reactivation of Finley Stadium before CFC's home opener on March 14 and that his staff as of now is just seven.

"We've cut deep and quickly," Thomas said.

Stadium Corp. board members unanimously approved taking $30,000 out of the stadium's reserve account to paint the 23-year-old facility during this down time. Board members do not want to delve further into that account any time soon, with its operating account containing a suddenly precarious $95,000.

Board chairman Mike Davis has asked for another $95,000 from the government's Paycheck Protection Program, which is sending out a second wave of assistance after its nearly $350 billion ran out in roughly two weeks.

"Our team has done a good job of keeping our Titanic from going under right now," Davis said.

Board member and former chairman Gordon Davenport said calling the coronavirus disruptive "doesn't do it justice," and everyone hopes events can return sooner than later. It sure beats dwelling on the alternative.

"We can't plan to remain closed indefinitely," Thomas said. "That's not an option. Hopefully we can see some return to life in mid-June. That may not be complete normalcy, but hopefully we can reactivate the world this summer.

"Our approach for now is to hunker down, tighten up and do what we can to preserve cash."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

 

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