We’re seeing details emerge on a funding plan for a new Chattanooga ballpark, as owner Jason Freier follows a familiar–and successful–formula for developing a home for his Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A, Southern League).
In both Fort Wayne and Columbia, Freier combined the draw of his Minor League Baseball ballparks to leverage investments on a public-private partnership, investing his own money alongside public entities. At Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps (High-A, Midwest League), the public-private ballpark generated a billion dollars in additional development, according to team and city officials, and helped upgrade an underdeveloped part of downtown Fort Wayne. At Segra Field, home of the Columbia Fireflies (Single-A, Carolina League), the new ballpark is anchor of $650 million in development at the Bull Street District, formerly home to a state mental-health hospital, according to former mayor Steve Benjamin. In both cases the development covered much more than just a sports facility: it created a totally new environment featuring residential, office space, hotels and restaurants. High-paying jobs are part of the mix, as is the argument that these mixed-use districts keep younger residents living in Chattanooga instead of fleeing for larger cities.
It’s the same model Freier is proposing for a new $86.5 million Lookouts ballpark at the 141-acre Wheland Foundry/U.S. Pipe site in the South Broad District. The status quo can’t hold in Chattanooga, where the current ballpark faces challenges meeting MLB’s new MiLB facility guidelines. The foundry site was identified by Freier and investors several years ago, but with 2023 looming–when MiLB teams need to have a plan in place to meet the aforementioned facility guidelines–there’s a sense of urgency to get a deal done.
RELATED STORIES: Lookouts: Small AT&T Field Site Limits Potential Upgrades; Details on Chattanooga Lookouts Ballpark Plan Unveiled; Freier: New Foundry-Area Ballpark Could Be Chattanooga “Game Changer”; New Lookouts Ballpark Could be an Option for Foundry Site; Freier: New Lookouts Ballpark Could Be “Win, Win, Win”