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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / The Alcoa student section and band celebrate. The Alcoa Tornadoes defeated the East Nashville Eagles 45-14 to win the TSSAA Division 1, Class 3A football championship in the BlueCross Bowl, at Finley Stadium, on December 3, 2021.

Finley Stadium hosted the TSSAA BlueCross Bowl this past December for the first time.

Finley Stadium had a net income of $378,937.15 through the first six months of this current fiscal year.

Those two facts are not unrelated.

The success of the nine state football championship contests, which included trophy celebrations for McCallie and South Pittsburg, resulted in a record July-to-December surplus for the 20,412-seat facility built in 1997. Finley Stadium executive director Chris Thomas said Tuesday that the BlueCross Bowl yielded more than $100,000 in food and soft drink sales, which topped the amount for the entire University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football and Chattanooga FC soccer seasons combined.

"It basically tripled what we were expecting based on what had occurred at Tennessee Tech," Thomas said. "We learned a lot, and the facility was great and we responded fine, but the concessions is where we really had the most trouble. The rest of the world is in a labor crisis, and so are we, but we're seeing more of an interest this year in people wanting to work. I think we'll be a lot stronger this year and a lot more prepared.

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BlueCross Bowl a monstrous success financially for Finley Stadium

"The BlueCross Bowl was the biggest event we've had here in a while, and I think the Kane Brown concert will be even larger and more intense, but they're two great events for sure."

One minor setback to the BlueCross Bowl was that one of the participating teams had flares go off while taking the field, which burned a section of the turf. The TSSAA is reimbursing Finley Stadium $23,000 to repair the damage.

TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress told the Times Free Press in December that Finley Stadium's hosting of the BlueCross Bowl was a "home run." The nine games over three days drew a paid attendance of 27,052, with the top single-day crowd in Finley's history remaining the 23,010 who watched Appalachian State rout Joe Flacco and Delaware 49-21 in the 2007 Football Championship Subdivision title game.

Thomas expects the Kane Brown audience on May 7 to be between 20,000 and 24,000.

Although the last six months of this fiscal year look promising with the concert, the CFC opener March 26 and UTC's spring game, which has tentatively been set for April 23, Thomas cautioned that difficult days could be ahead if these current inflation numbers are not reined under control. He explained that food costs have jumped 20% and that painting the field is now 50% more expensive.

Yet no matter what obstacles reside in the months ahead, another early Christmas could be waiting with the second BlueCross Bowl staged in Chattanooga.

"We were completely overwhelmed," Thomas said. "I've never seen anything like it."

The thriving BlueCross Bowl games marked the second consecutive year in which high school football provided a financial punch for Finley Stadium. In 2020, when Finley's gates were shut from March to July due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and the facility was losing $40,000 a month, the Baylor-McCallie, Calhoun-McCallie and Boyd-Buchanan-Chattanooga Christian matchups led to an unexpectedly productive fall given the landscape.

 

Staying busy

Finley Stadium and the First Horizon Pavilion have a combined 177 contracted events through the rest of 2022 that will draw an estimated attendance of 390,000.

"As far as the stadium goes, we are booked solid from now until Christmas," Thomas said, "and the pavilion is filling up quickly as well. We're about as busy as we can be at this point, and that's a nice problem to have."

 

Odds and ends

Stadium Corp. board members under the guidance of chairman Mike Davis made a motion to terminate its agreement with REEF Parking and to pursue a relationship with Bright Base Parking. ... The Stadium Corp. also voted to approve spending $12,000 on new goals for CFC. ... The Chattanooga Market is set to open the weekend of April 23-24.

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

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