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Freier, locals close on Lookouts purchase

Chattanooga LookoutsThe sale of the Chattanooga Lookouts (Class AA; Southern League) is complete, as a new ownership group led by John Woods and Hardball Capital’s Jason Freier take control of the team.

Freier will be Chairman, CEO and co-Managing Member, while Woods will be co-Managing Member. Freier is the Chairman and CEO of Hardball Capital, which also owns and operates the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low Class A; Midwest League) and the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; South Atlantic League) and is the former owner of the Salem Avalanche (High Class A; Carolina League).

The TinCaps are among the most successful teams in Minor League Baseball. Parkview Field is credited with helping to spur the revitalization of downtown Fort Wayne, which has seen over $200 million in investment since Parkview Field opened in 2009. The TinCaps welcomed over 565,000 fans to Parkview Field for events in 2014, over 400,000 of those for TinCaps baseball games.

Over the past three seasons, the TinCaps, the single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, have outdrawn 90% of AA teams and 40% of AAA teams. The TinCaps was named Ballpark Digest”s 2014 Team of the Year and has won numerous other awards for operational and promotional excellence, branding, marketing and food service.

Hardball is also engaged in a partnership with the City of Columbia, S.C., developing a new ballpark and multi-use entertainment venue that will bring Minor League Baseball back to the Midlands for the first time in over a decade. The $37 million Spirit Communications Park, which broke ground in January, anchors a billion-dollar redevelopment of the 181-acre former state mental health campus at the gateway to Columbia’s downtown.

Woods, a native of Chattanooga, is an Executive Director of Investments at the Atlanta branch of a national investment bank and wealth management business. He attended East Ridge High School and Tennessee Tech University, where he played football. Woods has remained present and active in the Chattanooga community.  He is partners with former Lookouts and New York Yankees pitcher Clay Porter. Woods also was the co-owner, with 20-year Major League pitcher and current Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, of Honeycutt Sports.

“Lookouts games are a treasured part of my childhood and returning to Chattanooga as an owner of the Lookouts is a dream come true,” said Woods. “I look forward to spending time at the ballpark with my four boys and my lifelong friends from the area.”

“We are excited to become a part of the Chattanooga community,” said Freier. “So many strides have been made to make Chattanooga a great place to live, work and play as well as a center of innovation. The Lookouts have a storied history and have been a part of the fabric of the community for generations. We hope to build on that, enhance the experience at AT&T Park for the families, students and businesses in the greater Chattanooga area and greatly increase the team’s community involvement and outreach.”

Woods and Freier also introduced more than a dozen other members of ownership with strong ties to Chattanooga. “Having so many members of ownership with deep ties in the Chattanooga community will help us achieve our goal of making the Lookouts a top organization in Minor League Baseball and a positive force in the community,” said Woods. Those owners include:

  • Marshall Brock, a fourth generation Chattanoogan and a member of Chattanooga’s Brock Candy family.  The son of Frank and Dottie, he attended McCallie School and Covenant College.  He is the founder of Clumpies Ice Cream Company, which he opened in Chattanooga in 1999.  He is also a member of the founding board of the Chattanooga Football Club, the City’s semi-pro soccer team, and is President of the Recreation Board for the town of Lookout Mountain. Brock and his wife Kim live in Chattanooga with their six children, who range in age from 17 to 8 and who attend McCallie, Girls Preparatory School and Fairyland Elementary.
  • Casey Hammontree, born and raised in Chattanooga, he has been attending Lookouts games since his childhood and now enjoys taking his own kids. Casey is a partner with Tenth Street Capital, a local investment firm focused on providing subordinated debt and equity for growing companies throughout the United States. He also serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Mountain Education Foundation of Signal Mountain and as a board member of Junior Achievement of Chattanooga. Casey resides on Signal Mountain with his wife Jennifer and their three children.
  • Richard Mashburn, born and raised in Chattanooga and a graduate of Ooltewah High School and East Tennessee State University. Richard is the founder and CEO of Mashburn Outdoor, parent company of ATMedia Outdoor, the largest combined airport, transit, and event-based advertising company in the United States. In 2014 ATMedia Outdoor was ranked among the 500 fastest growing private companies in the country by Inc. Magazine (#467). Mashburn Outdoor has offices in Chattanooga, Tri-Cities, TN and Atlanta. Richard lives in Canton, Georgia with his family while his parents and siblings still reside in Chattanooga.
  • Forrest Simmons, a Senior Wealth Advisor for Keel Point. He runs the Chattanooga office located on St. Elmo Avenue at the base of Lookout Mountain. His athletic exploits earned him induction into the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Lookout Mountain Hall of Fame (induction scheduled for May of 2015). Forrest played in the inaugural Dixie Youth Baseball World Series held on Lookout Mountain in 1961. He was an All-ACC tennis player and co-captain of the University of North Carolina’s perennially nationally ranked tennis team and was awarded the UNC Educational Foundation award for Outstanding Senior Student Athletes. He went on to represent the United States in tennis competitions held in Montreal and Barcelona. Forrest has served on many community boards, including the Atlanta Youth Academy, a faith based preparatory school for underprivileged children, and the Arthritis Foundation of Atlanta. He lives in Chattanooga with his wife and two sons.
  • G. McKittrick Simmons, the managing partner of Sweetwater Holdings, a private equity and advisory firm focused on commercial real estate development and investments in the southeast. Though raised in Atlanta, McKittrick considers Chattanooga his second home. His father, the late Greg Simmons, was raised on Lookout Mountain, attended Baylor School and, in his youth, played for the Lookout Mountain Pharmacy Baseball team. Simmons was renowned locally for a home run hit over the light tower at the state tournament in Dyersburg in the summer of 1959. McKittrick’s grandparents, the late Fran and Mitch Simmons, moved to Chattanooga in 1957 and were deeply invested in Chattanooga for many decades.  McKittrick sits on the board of trustees of Atlanta Youth Academy, Young Life Africa Expeditions, the Atlanta Resource Foundation, Desire Street Ministries and Kairos Church. He resides in Atlanta with his wife and three children.
  • Joseph Wingfield is a third-generation Chattanoogan. He operates the family business, Wingfield Scale Company, founded by his grandfather in Chattanooga in 1937. After graduating from McCallie School, Joseph got a degree in Industrial and System Engineering from Auburn University. Wingfield is involved in a variety of local boards including the Chattanooga Area Leadership Prayer Breakfast and Prison Prevention Ministries. He is also an Elder at Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church.  Joseph is married to Beth, also a third generation Chattanoogan and graduate of Girls Preparatory School.  They have five young sons who lead the family in cheering for the Lookouts.
  • The Lamp Post Group, a venture incubator bringing funding and support to the best teams with the brightest ideas capable of changing the world. Based in the former Loveman’s Department Store in downtown Chattanooga, the Lamp Post Group is building the first world-class technology hub in the south. It is investing in the critical infrastructure and top-tier talent necessary to support globally impactful companies right here in Chattanooga. Through the Lamp Post Group, eleven deeply passionate residents of Chattanooga, including the group’s founders and senior leadership, have become members of the Lookouts ownership group. Over the past year, Lamp Post has made great strides in attracting the best and brightest minds from all over the world to join the work we’re doing right here in Chattanooga. “This is one more selling point for our city in ensuring that we are competitive with the rest of the nation as we aim to build the first world-class tech-hub in the South — this team is a great attraction and has the ability to draw young professionals and their families to this city,” said Lamp Post Group co-founder Barry Large. “We are excited about the vision Jason and John have laid out for this team moving forward and we have no doubt they will accomplish big things on and off the field. Lamp Post Group looks forward to continuing to play a part in this exciting transformation of the Chattanooga Lookouts as it remains a cornerstone of our community.”

In addition to the involvement of locals in ownership, the team completed this transaction with the assistance of locally-based FSG Bank.”When we enter a new market we always prefer to find local partners wherever possible,” said new Lookouts CEO Jason Freier. “We were fortunate to find a great partner that combined world-class service and sophistication with local enthusiasm. We could not have asked for a better experience.”

New Lookouts ownership also thanked Frank Burke and the Burke family for their longtime stewardship of the team. Burke said” “For the better part of 20 years I have had the privilege of being associated with the Chattanooga Lookouts. It has been a fabulous ride and it was made possible by the wonderful people of Chattanooga.  Words can’t express my gratitude for having had the opportunity to go to a ballpark every day and claim it was ‘work’. I wish John, Jason and their ownership group all the best and know the Lookouts have a very bright future.”

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