In 2018, the Chattanooga Red Wolves were formed as a new USL League One soccer team, with desires to set up shop in the Scenic City. Of course, the Chattanooga Football Club had already resided in town since 2009.
A turf war of sorts ensued, with CFC maintaining its hold on Finley Stadium to host its home matches while the Red Wolves ultimately began the process of setting up shop in East Ridge, having already made progress on the first soccer-specific stadium in the state of Tennessee.
It's been a situation that has been tense at the very least, but most certainly petty as both clubs — and fanbases — have fought to carve out their own space: CFC as the established, grassroots product and the Red Wolves as the shiny new, more professional franchise.
Fast forward to 2021, where a new turf war has taken place. Only it appears this time the Red Wolves are firmly in control.
On July 8, the East Ridge city council awarded exclusive rights to Camp Jordan to the Red Wolves, which created an issue in that the CFC Academy has been using the site for its own training since 2014. The city council voted 4-1 to lease the rights to all nine fields to the Red Wolves, which if the decision holds up will displace the CFC Academy, leaving the estimated 600 families of CFC Academy participants potentially without a place to play this fall.
CFC's 2016 lease agreement with Camp Jordan expired on June 30. Both clubs had written proposals for use of the field; and the East Ridge City Council chose the one submitted by the Red Wolves.
Another meeting is scheduled to take place Thursday evening, but it's unclear if the item will be on the agenda again. Attempts to reach East Ridge city manager Christ Dorsey were unsuccessful.
CFC sent multiple emails to East Ridge mayor Brian Williams as well as the council, hoping to outline an agreement where neither team had exclusive rights to the field, but instead co-existed at the park. Their feeling is that Camp Jordan is big enough to host both academies, especially considering Camp Jordan is a public park.
Since 2014, the CFC Academy has brought in $291,302.14 into the park, according to CFC documentation.
"We have enjoyed being at Camp Jordan and are happy to share this public park with anyone," Steve Hirayama, CFC Academy's director of coaching said in a text message sent to the Times Free Press. "We didn't submit a proposal with the goal of doing a takeover that might hurt kids in another club. We submitted one that shared the park. Even though CFC Academy is growing tremendously, there's still room for more than one youth soccer club out there. We know we're the big, established academy that everyone knows, and we want to co-exist and build the youth soccer community."
In 2019 the Red Wolves began work on a new complex which is expected to bring in $150 million to East Ridge. Their stadium, CHI Memorial, has made a lot of progress, with executive suites and locker rooms being two of the biggest items left, but the development is expected to be much more than that.
The project is also expected to include two 188-room hotels, a 40,000-square-foot convention center, 400 apartments and condos, and restaurant, retail and office space, plus a four-level, 1,200-space parking deck, police substation, a network of green spaces such as a "great lawn," a lake, pocket parks, greenways and transportation and utility infrastructure, according to plans shown to the Times Free Press in April.
The Red Wolves have their own academy, which also has about 600 participating families, and holds its practices at Camp Jordan. General manager Sean McDaniel noted that the team plans to extend their operations to the site, which could hold Red Wolves practices, soccer camps and workouts for both the men's and women's teams.
"The growth we've had in our youth academy with the numbers, and now with the addition of Northview and particularly Dalton, Camp Jordan is the perfect geographical location to come train multiple times a week," McDaniel said. "Beyond that, to show off this great city, with tournaments with out of town kids, now that's not encumbered by any other things on those fields. What it really gives us is the freedom and flexibility to build out the local economic infrastructure because we've got the space to be able to drive traffic even more.
"I think it goes without saying that from an economic standpoint, the business dollars that will flow through that area because of the Red Wolves, it only makes sense that having the ability to manage and navigate and control the soccer aspects of camps does that further. We've proven that, with the stadium going up and with us building stuff. So for us to now be over Camp Jordan, it's a little bit of a no-brainer. We've proven we're here to stay and drive revenue and traffic to the city."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.