Despite the loss of $60,000 of funding this year from the city of Chattanooga, the Finley Stadium Corporation is projecting to end the fiscal year with a surplus of around $50,000, Executive Director Merrill Eckstein told the board of directors at a meeting Tuesday. He said in the 2011-2012 fiscal year revenue was down by $83,000 compared to the previous year, but expenses were lower by $130,000.
This was attributed to reductions in several areas including cleaning services, which are now being handled in-house by two UTC students.
The cost of electricity was down dramatically partially because of a mild winter resulting in lower usage and also because the demand rate was down. A large investment in equipment purchased for the concession stands was in the last budget year when the transaction was completed so that amount did not appear in this year's financial plan.
“Going forward it’s looking good” said board member Ryan Crimmins. UTC has five home football games this year at Finley Stadium. The opening game will be on a Thursday night without the competition of other games on a weekend so attendance should be good. Two of the other games will be against teams that should attract large crowds - Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. Also, McCallie will host its rivalry with Baylor at the stadium.
The average attendance of a UTC football game last year was 10,000, which was down from 12,000 the previous year. But, said Mr. Eckstein, the stadium makes money on concessions and parking. A contract with the school sets the price for using the stadium at $10,000 per game with security costs included in that amount. Board member Jerry Summers asked how long that contract is for. Mr. Eckstein answered that it rolls over indefinitely. Mr. Summers responded that he thinks it needs to be re-negotiated.
In the proposed 2012-2013 budget, the stadium corporation will again get no support from the city and will see a reduction of $10,000 from the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, from which it will receive $50,000. Mr. Eckstein told the board that this year he will actively try to determine the impact that events held at the stadium have on the local hotels and motels where this revenue originates. He said that most of the support for UTC football is local, but other events such as the Four Bridges Art Festival, the Three State Three Mountain Challenge biking event, and the annual Southern States Band Competition every November do generate hotel rooms. He said because of events such as these, the stadium should be supported by the CCVB.
The venue actually has three facilities to be managed - the stadium itself, the pavilion and the Stadium Club. The director said that he is proud that it has been turned this into a community facility. The Stadium Club is currently being used regularly for meetings of the Quarterback Club, by a civil engineering professional group, and the Chattanooga Ski Club. Scheduling also includes an upcoming dental seminar, an Aflac insurance sales meeting, and two Soddy Daisy class reunions. The rental of the facility so far has been done without advertising, just by word of mouth.
Other scheduled events are an exhibition soccer game in the stadium between two of the biggest soccer clubs in Mexico on July 7.He said 3,000 tickets have already been sold for this match. And, on June 30, there will be a car show in the north parking lot.
Mr. Eckstein told the board that one new position has been created for the upcoming year. Jeff Clark, who has functioned as chief of security at the stadium, has resigned from the Chattanooga Police Department to become the operations director at Finley. This job will encompass supervising all security and also working with the maintenance crew. Additionally, he will be the liaison between any client and the stadium once an event is booked.
Board member Mike Davis gave a report of the capital projects, which include replacement of a roof-top unit and some metal siding. When the siding was repaired, workers discovered a roof problem that required attention. He said going forward that he has shifted priorities and will do the most work possible with the least amount of cost. He said that he will not rush out to fix everything at the same time. For example, instead of seal coating the parking lot, he now plans to only re-stripe it. He added that he thinks the facility is in pretty good shape for its age.
A request by UTC is to add a railing around the lower wall below the hill on the Eest side of the field. The idea is to create a family area where there will be a “family price” entrance fee. The plan is to provide picnic tables and children will be able to play on the grassy slope. The estimate for adding the railing is $18,000. The board indicated it would contribute 10-20 percent of the cost for this project.
Mr. Crimmins expressed concern over the appearance the property projects, saying that “finishing touches make it look like we’re at the top of our game”. He said details such as eliminating worn areas of grass and sweeping the parking lots could contribute to it always looking “ship shape”.
Board Chairman Bryan Patten said that a big problem is that the stadium lies dormant a lot of the time. He thinks that it needs to become an event venue, not just for musical concerts, but for other fun things. He thinks that it would be wise to start with something small where the stadium would not assume all the risk but would be shared with the promoter. He said, “I’m determined for us to make some headway with entertainment in the coming year.”