For those who have been following along with news of the South Broad development (which encompasses the construction of the new Chattanooga Lookouts stadium), we’re giving you a refresher + for newbies, think of this as your crash course into the project.
Note: The proposed stadium is only ~nine acres of the full 128-acre development of South Broad.
We recently shared that the original price tag of the stadium has increased from $80 million to a now projected cost of $120 million due to inflation. We sat down with the President of New City Jim Irwin, the master developer, to discuss changes + the overall project.
Irwin said the central idea of this project and its funding is looking at the stadium as a catalyst.
“The city and county are investing in something that will create new tax revenue,” he said. “The decision that’s being made is whether or not to take that new tax revenue and take a piece of it to pay down the bond.”
Finance for dummies
Editor Haley here. As someone who doesn’t have extensive knowledge on development or a finance background, it can be easy to get lost in terminology when diving into these large-scale projects. Here’s a simplified version of the need-to-knows.
- TIF: Tax Increment Financing is a way to fund major + costly development projects by setting aside future tax revenues the area generates to pay back the investment.
- Bond: Issued by government agencies to investors that then loan the money to borrowers to be paid back the way you would pay a complex loan.
What does the price change mean for the stadium + residents?
- The city + county have approved the original bond for $80 million
- The Lookouts + landowners are proposing to front the additional $40 million, by borrowing from five local banks
- Pending approval, the public bonds from the city + county will be first priority in repayment
- No existing property tax revenues will be going toward building the stadium
Younger, a Tennessee-based economic analysis firm, has configured conservative projections over 30 years, showing the full project (residential + commercial combined) will bring in $468 million in new tax revenue. Using TIF, this would be split to go towards generating revenue for Hamilton County Schools, the city + county, and a small portion to pay off the stadium.
Bonus: For more resources including slides + audio from the most recent commission meeting, check out the project’s website.
Looking at another side — Hamilton County officials have questioned the developer’s figures and presented concerns about the plan to taxpayers during a recent town hall. Get more context.
Addressing common questions
We’ve seen your feedback on our previous posts about the stadium + we asked Irwin to provide some insight on reoccurring questions.
Q: Where are the trees?
A: The current renderings don’t show the true landscape because there is actually a separate team designing + studying the best native plants for the area — stay tuned for those images.
Q: Where is the shade?
A: Irwin said they changed the orientation of the stadium (in relation to the direction of the sun) to allow for guests to be in the shade for most of the duration of games + added shade structures and pavilions for the most comfortable experience.
Q: Where is the parking?
A: In the short term, there is a license agreement to set aside surface areas to be cleared for parking. Long term, once more developments progress (office spaces, retail, etc.), parking will become available for game day during the evening + weekend.
Q: Why is it labeled a multi-use stadium?
A: The stadium is designed to be integrated into our riverwalk + while it will act as a home base for the Lookouts, when games aren’t going on folks will still have full public access to the concourse and businesses inside. Think of a “door is always open” situation. This will be home to a number of events like concerts and recreational sports.
How to raise your voice
While the city council + county commissions gear up to vote on final approval, here is how you can get involved and share your support or overall feedback.
City Council | Leave a voicemail to your district councilperson by calling 423-643-7170 + pressing the number associated with your district (i.e., dial 1 for District 1).
Pending city + county approval, construction is ready to begin immediately with a projection to be complete by spring of 2025.