ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Staff photo / Appalachian State football fans rush the field at Finley Stadium as fireworks go off after the Mountaineers beat Massachusetts 28-17 in the FCS title game on Dec. 15, 2006. Finley Stadium hosted the championship game for the lower tier of NCAA Division I football from 1997 to 2009.

For more BlueCross Bowl coverage from the Times Free Press, read more here.

Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco once competed at Finley Stadium, as have heralded American soccer standouts such as Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach and Michael Bradley.

The next recognizable athletic star to compete at the 20,412-seat facility might be suiting up during these next three days in one of the nine BlueCross Bowl football state championship games.

Since its unveiling in 1997, Finley Stadium has been synonymous with the Football Championship Subdivision and both amateur and professional soccer through the Chattanooga Football Club, but the venue has added another showcase to cap its 25th year as the TSSAA stages its title contests in Chattanooga for the first time beginning Thursday.

The stadium was built to house the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team, which had been playing at an aging Chamberlain Field, but another goal was for it to serve the entire community.

Or, in this week's case, the entire Volunteer State.

"It feels good right now," Stadium Corp. board member and former chairman Gordon Davenport said at the dawn of this football season. "This place, I feel right now, is as solid managerially and financially as it's been in a long while, and what's important is that it's getting used — whether it's the pavilion or soccer or football."

During the early years of the stadium, Chattanooga high school rivalries such as Baylor-McCallie and Red Bank-Soddy Daisy drew more than 10,000 spectators, but those schools eventually opted back for their on-campus settings.

The FCS championship game was staged 13 times at Finley from 1997 to 2009, with Appalachian State's 49-21 win over Flacco and Delaware in 2007 drawing a facility-record crowd of 23,010. That App State team had begun that season with a memorable 34-32 upset of No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Lloyd, Wambach and the U.S. Women's national team blasted Costa Rica in a Finley Stadium friendly weeks after their memorable run to the 2015 World Cup title, while the U.S. men's national team topped Jamaica in a friendly in February 2017. The most stunning crowd in Finley's history occurred on Aug. 10, 2015, when 18,227 watched CFC come up short against the New York Cosmos B in the National Premier Soccer League title match.

That crowd set a record for an amateur soccer match in the United States.

"My favorite moment was when the women's national team was here after winning the World Cup," Davenport said. "I just thought that night — everybody wanted to be here, and there was great energy in the place. We had a horrible rainstorm, but almost everybody stayed. That's my favorite."

Davenport's father, the late Gordon Sr., spearheaded the vision and ultimately the reality of Finley Stadium's construction at $28.5 million. The stadium's location is the former RockTenn paper and packaging plant, with the late Max Finley having been a 1931 University of Chattanooga graduate and a former RockTenn Corporation chairman who donated the land for what is now the home of the BlueCross Bowl.

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

Thursday’s TSSAA BlueCross Bowl at Finley Stadium

Division II-AA

CPA (11-2) vs. Lipscomb Academy (11-1), 11 a.m.

Division II-A

DCA (11-1) vs. Nashville Christian (11-2), 3 p.m.

Division II-AAA

McCallie (12-0) vs. MBA (9-3), 7 p.m.

 

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT