The more trips he took up Interstate 75, the more he liked the destination.
Jason Freier, the chairman and chief executive officer of Hardball Capital in Atlanta, already operates minor league baseball teams in Indiana and on the Georgia coast, but he developed an increasing interest in the Chattanooga Lookouts as 2014 progressed. Atlanta banking executive and Chattanooga native John Woods hired Freier as a consultant after bidding on the Class AA franchise, but Freier's role quickly grew, and the two now will be general partners of the Lookouts with Freier running the show.
"We just think it's a great market," Freier said. "The downtown has a lot of young professionals and young families who have moved or are moving into that area, and the work that the city and nonprofit and for-profit companies have done downtown is fabulous.
"Everybody we talked to about Chattanooga just said that it was a great city, so why wouldn't you want to do business in a place like that?"
Woods graduated from East Ridge High School and was a walk-on football player at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before transferring to Tennessee Tech.
Freier signed the purchase agreement this week to acquire the Lookouts from Frank Burke, who has owned the franchise since 1995. Adding another team to operate is certain to have its challenges, but Freier expects to have more of a hands-on approach with the Lookouts.
"I can leave my door and be at home plate at AT&T Field in less than 100 minutes," Freier said. "It's not precisely local to me, but it will be a place I'll be able to spend a lot of time and be extremely involved. I'm involved with all of our teams, but it's easier for me to do that in Chattanooga than in anyplace else."
Rich Mozingo will remain as president and general manager of the Lookouts. Mozingo visited with Freier and Woods during a late-season Lookouts game and said he had a couple of other meetings with Freier in his AT&T Field office to crunch numbers.
Freier and Mozingo attended baseball's winter meetings in San Diego but have made their way back with Mozingo now under new ownership and Freier overseeing a team in a new city.
"There are good things happening there with Volkswagen and Amazon, and we think it's a market on the rise," Freier said. "We know we're not getting in at the beginning of the wave, but it's a forward-thinking, successful city that we want to be a part of."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.