Note: If you can't click through the gallery, try refreshing your browser. This story was updated Thursday, April 25, 2019, at 6:25 p.m. with more information.
As the Scenic City continues to grow, East Ridge is set to see a major expansion.
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC announced Thursday plans to build a 5,500-seat stadium off Interstate 75 across from Camp Jordan. The privately funded stadium will cost $6 million out of an estimated $125 million project expected to take three to five years to complete.
"We don't look at this just as a soccer complex in the East Ridge and Chattanooga area," Red Wolves SC owner Bob Martino said. "This multiuse complex is going to be a huge eastern United States draw. It's going to be big on the soccer road map but have elements people are going to enjoy on a daily basis."
This is just the second soccer-specific professional stadium in Tennessee to be announced — and it could to be the first to open.
The franchise hopes to play on its new artificial turf field as soon as the 2020 USL League One season. The league is recognized as tier three of professional soccer.
"Weather-permitting and along with the permits we need to secure, we could still get the stadium ready in time for next season," Martino said. "We need to get going on it in the next month or so if it's going to be achievable."
MLS' Nashville FC will not begin play in its 27,500-seat stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds until 2022.
Chattanooga Red Wolves SC was founded last August, instantly creating tension with a grassroots soccer club in Chattanooga FC, which has drawn more than 400,000 fans to Finley Stadium for soccer matches over the past 11 seasons and counting. The two soccer clubs are not in the same league, but competing for fans, revenue and youth soccer players.
Even so, CFC chairman and co-founder Tim Kelly said Thursday afternoon that Martino's plans appear to be a good thing for the area.
"If even half of this development happens, it will be a great thing for the city of East Ridge. As residents of Hamilton County, that is good news for all of us. Chattanooga Football Club will remain exactly that, built by Chattanoogans for Chattanoogans."
The new East Ridge stadium will be surrounded by year-round amenities such as shopping, eateries, sports bars, hotels and condos along with a 35,000-square-foot convention center and open green space.
Martino said he sees several similarities between his project and the Battery Atlanta outside of SunTrust Park, which has become a popular spot for Braves fans.
Inside the stadium, fans will be brought as close as possible to the action.
"The design will take the play as close as you can to the fans. Where you feel like you are part of the action," Martino said. "Soccer is the world's most popular sport. A lot of boutique stadiums in European countries pull the fans into the game. That's when it gets fun and exciting. The players thrive on that, too."
Some professional soccer stadiums around the U.S. have brought their fans as close as 12 feet behind the goal line.
Grandstands will be on both sidelines along with seating behind each end zone. Sky boxes and on-field boxes will also be a part of the fan experience. The stadium will have a Jumbotron, too.
The Red Wolves SC supporter group, the "Scenic City Alphas" will be given the opportunity to be involved in the design of their supporter section, Martino said.
"Certainly what attracts players and coaches are great facilities," Red Wolves SC head coach Tim Hankinson said. "A turning point for soccer in this country is when Major League Soccer started to demand new franchises needed soccer-specific stadiums. For us to be building our own training facility and soccer stadium looks very healthy and exciting for the future."
Underneath an end zone will be locker rooms for not only professional players, but all of the youth academies as well, including age groups of 7-8 and 16-18. There will also be a training room, film room, weight and press room inside the clubhouse.
The stadium will be used by both the Red Wolves SC, Lady Red Wolves SC, the Red Wolves SC Academy and the Dalton Red Wolves of USL League Two.
"Chattanooga is not a sleepy southern town. It is the place to be," Red Wolves president and general manager Sean McDaniel said. "Soccer is a sport that draws cultures together. It's not just about the game though. It's about the whole infrastructure. We are seeing that here."
The stadium will have high visibility from I-75, where more than 130,000 cars on average pass Exit 1 each day.
The Red Wolves also plan to have a 1,200- to 2,000-seat training facility at Camp Jordan built by next year.
Additionally, the soccer complex could be used for regional youth academy soccer tournaments, high school games, concerts and viewing parties.
"We want this to be an environment all sports fans and people around town can enjoy," Martino said. "East Ridge understands the big picture. They want Camp Jordan to reach the next level. By having this whole package it can be really great for the whole region."
With Chattanooga FC drawing more than 11,000 fans in their first two exhibitions this season, the city will soon have the task of supporting two soccer teams.
"If Chattanooga has proven anything over the past 10 years, it's that it can outkick its coverage," McDaniel said. "To be a pro franchise here is just the beginning of what Chattanooga can be."
Contact staff writer Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.