Updated with more information at 6:45 p.m. on April 10, 2020.
Although artists' renderings have provided virtual glances of what CHI Memorial Stadium will look like upon completion, the first professional soccer-specific venue in the state is actually taking shape off Interstate 75 in East Ridge.
Even with sports postponed due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, construction continues on the future home of USL League One's Chattanooga Red Wolves. The $125 million development, on nearly 100 acres adjacent to Camp Jordan, will include a 5,500-seat horseshoe-shaped stadium.
"Not only is the turf down, but it's the best you can have in the world," Red Wolves president Sean McDaniel said of the synthetic surface, which has met the standards of the quality assurance program established by FIFA, international soccer's governing body.
"We also are starting to see the seats going up. The cement is being poured for the locker room and the goals are here. There is a reality aspect to CHI Memorial Stadium where it's clear this will be a beautiful stadium in the Scenic City."
On a site that will undergo continual transformation in the coming months and years with the addition of restaurants, hotels and retail outlets, already evident is the close proximity and intimacy fans will be able to have to "the beautiful game."
The seating is comparable to that at English Premier League stadiums, where soccer fans are right on top of the action and just feet away from players on the field. The home and away benches are even built into the seating area.
Similar to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which houses both Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer and the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, there will be field level suites along with an executive clubhouse that provides padded outdoor seating, plus indoor entertainment and skybox suites that already have a waiting list.
"This stadium will provide the ideal fan experience," McDaniel said of CHI Memorial Stadium, which does not yet have a definitive date for completion but is expected to host all of the Red Wolves' home games this year if the season is played.
"Our supporters section in the north end zone will have a self-pour beer tap wall right behind it where fans can congregate. We will also have a kid zone on the south end and a hospitality area. Having the options to watch from field level suites or other premium seating from our executive club is going to be wonderful, too."
Just more than a year since Steven Beattie fed Eamon Zayed a pass over the top to boot in the winning goal and first score for the Red Wolves in the Scenic City at Chattanooga Christian School's David Stanton Field, players are anxious to lace up their shoes and dig into their new home turf.
The team clubhouse backing up to I-75 will have five locker rooms, coaches' offices and a lounge area, along with video, dining, media and athletic treatment rooms, including for cryotherapy.
The Red Wolves have yet to start what was to be their second season, with the 10-team USL League One suspending preseason activities March 12 due to the pandemic, and that moratorium on practices will last through at least April 19. Play will remain suspended through at least May 10, according to the USL League One website's schedule page, a stretch that affects six Red Wolves matches.
The upside is that the season — even if not extended due to shuffling matches — will last into early October. The next scheduled home match for the Red Wolves after May 10 is May 23 against Orlando City B.
"There is a real hope that sporting events with crowds will return mid to late summer," McDaniel said. "We fully anticipate playing soccer in 2020 and are schedule modeling to play as many matches as we can. The players are excited about making CHI Memorial their new home. You can't help but walk out there and your eyes open wide."
While the pandemic has created tough times for many, team owner Bob Martino and the Red Wolves have found ways to give back to the community.
Since April 3, the team has been donating all of its merchandise sales to the YMCA food program and has already helped supply more than 500 meals to families in need across Hamilton County. The Red Wolves will continue to donate every proceed to help feed families through April 17.
"To be in the middle of this storm and give back to the kids and families in the community that need help is a powerful testimony to Bob Martino's commitment to Chattanooga," McDaniel said. "He sees great vision and hope in the Scenic City. He sees it with the team and the whole region."