After opening new ballparks in Fort Wayne and Columbia to wide acclaim and a measurable economic impact, Hardball Capital’s Jason Freier may be setting his sights on another new facility — this one for the Chattanooga Lookouts (Class AA; Southern League).
AT&T Field isn’t the best ballpark under the sun, but Chattanooga is a strong market, with a business economy that attracts millennial and entrepreneurs. Visit Parkview Field and Spirit Communications Park, and you’ll see lots of similarities: lots of social spaces for group of all sizes, gathering spots for millennials (in center field in both ballparks), and an obsessive commitment to customer service.
This formula would seem to be perfect for Chattanooga, where the new gig economy is strong and millennials are lured by great Internet access and high-end food and drink. AT&T Field opened in 2000, but it lacks many of the amenities — wraparound concourse, group areas, social spaces — found in newer ballparks. In an interview with a local TV station, Freier says there are three factors that makes a new ballpark a good investment:
- Win for surrounding community. (Think new development) Would a new park change that particular part of town for the better?
- Win for Chattanooga as a whole. Could new park provide great amenity outside of baseball? For example, Fort Wayne’s stadium hosts the cities biggest marathon, holds soccer games, football games and concerts with popular names.
- Win for the team and fans. Does it improve the overall team and fan experience on gameday? Both Columbia and Fort Wayne have full 360 walk-around stadiums with surrounding restaurants and businesses either up now or in the process. Fort Wayne’s stadium just opened a rooftop bar.
Now, to be sure, this is a long-term play here. It doesn’t sound like any new ballpark is imminent, and it will take years to develop a game plan. But Chattanooga is a Southern city on the rise, and it deserves a better ballpark.