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New Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark approved, funded by county

Hamilton County Commissioners today approved plans for a new Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark, creating a sports authority to oversee construction and issue bonds for the project.

The vote was 8-1. We could see a final vote from the Chattanooga City Council as soon as next week approving the project.

While owner Jason Freier has been working on a new-ballpark plan for years, the Double-A Southern League team’s hand was forced by new MiLB facility guidelines imposed by MLB, with a 2023 deadline for ballpark update or replacement plans. Keeping professional came down to approval of a new Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark, as the team’s current home, 22-year-old AT&T Field in downtown Chattanooga, isn’t a great candidate for investment to meet the new standards for a variety of reasons.

The plan, as approved by county commissioners and basically unchanged since last presented to the county commission, would create a 470-acre special tax district surrounding the eight-acre ballpark location, which is part of a 141-acre Wheland Foundry/U.S. Pipe site in the South Broad District development. Increased tax revenues–state/local sales and property–generated by the development would be used to partially pay for the $79.4 million ballpark; the Lookouts would also pay $1 million annually in rent. A new entity, the Chattanooga Sports Authority, will own the ballpark and issue bonds for the project, with the Lookouts also committed to $45 million in future maintenance and other operational costs as well as booking events beyond the MiLB season.

Rendering courtesy South Broad District.

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