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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Fans pack into AT&T Field for a Southern League season opener between the Chattanooga Lookouts and the visiting Birmingham Barons on April 5, 2018.

Many college football coaches harp on a "24-hour rule" after big victories, which allows their players to celebrate for a set period before refocusing on the next challenge.

The Chattanooga Lookouts can relate to that.

Chattanooga was extended an invitation this week to remain as the Class AA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, resulting in both joy and relief locally after the Lookouts had been mentioned for more than a year as a potential casualty of Major League Baseball contraction. Yet MLB has made it clear those hitting and pitching their way through the minor leagues need the nicest facilities possible, and AT&T Field isn't getting any younger.

"They're going to come out with new facility standards," Lookouts president Rich Mozingo said. "They're going to come out with how many lockers are expected to be in a locker room, and what the size of the visiting clubhouse should be. They will let us know how many lockers there are supposed to be for the roving instructors.

"In most of those areas, we're going to fall short. I'm sure there is going to be a grace period of some sort, but it's going to have to be addressed."

AT&T Field was privately funded for $10.2 million through former Lookouts owner Frank Burke and two other business partners, including his father. It opened in 2000 with an exhibition game between Cincinnati and the Baltimore Orioles, which was preceded by ceremonial first pitches from the late George and Barbara Bush.

The Lookouts led the Southern League in attendance in 2002, a remarkable feat given the larger markets in the league such as Birmingham, Alabama, and Jacksonville, Florida, but newer and more expensive stadiums in the years since have left the 6,340-seat facility outdated.

"When Frank built the ballpark, he built it on a really small piece of property on top of a hill in the middle of Chattanooga," Mozingo said. "That was by design, but if they came in and said our locker rooms need to be 700, 800 or 900 more square feet, unless you build a deck, there is nowhere to go. We are very landlocked at AT&T Field.

"While I think there are some things that we can address, none of us will know until we get the standards from MLB what we're going to be facing to make it in compliance with what they need."

Lookouts co-owners Jason Freier and John Woods already have proposed a new park mostly funded by taxpayers at the 141-acre former U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site. This year's outbreak of the coronavirus and the accompanying financial hardships halted momentum for such a venue, but it's possible that MLB could want to see at least a timetable for a new Chattanooga home or else find the Reds a new location for their Double-A club.

Until that time comes, as much as $3 million could be spent on AT&T Field enhancements.

"Construction is on the horizon one way or another for us," Mozingo said.

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

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