Randy Smith: Chattanooga Needs A Youth Sports Complex

It’s been about three weeks since I first wrote about the need for a super youth sports complex in Chattanooga. Every time I go to an out of town baseball tournament, I return home with a longing for our area to have one like Lakepoint, East Cobb, Pigeon Forge, Melbourne, and Charleston, SC. All these complexes have artificial turf, ample parking, great concessions and a lot of teams playing each and every weekend. I was very conservative when it comes to what a big complex in Chattanooga would mean to the local economy. I estimated it would have a local economic impact of $13 million annually. Now that I’ve done more research, it’s closer to $20 million.

The Chattanooga Lookouts have been looking for a new home for several years now.

They indeed need a new stadium…one that’s safer and more functional than the one they have now on Hawk Hill. My proposal was to build everything at the old Wheland Foundry close to the Tennessee River. It’s said to have 191 acres available and the Lookouts are planning to feature restaurants and shops surrounding the stadium. That’s fine but a new youth sports complex could be included and, while a facility that serves just the Lookouts would be wonderful and much needed, the bulk of that economic impact would be from youth tournaments with thousands of families coming from out of town.

If the stadium is placed in the middle the youth fields could have a couple of quads (four fields) on each side. That would allow enough fields for eight games at once. And with artificial turf surfaces, there would be no rain outs and no real upkeep. Tournaments could run from February through November, which includes 10 months of action. This is a can’t miss opportunity and a no-brainer. Eight fields, plus a new stadium for the Lookouts could easily fit in the 191-acre plot of land. Plus, it would be worth a lot of money to improve the scenery as you come into Chattanooga from I-24. The way it looks now is certainly nothing you want visitors to have as their first impression of our city. 

Since I first wrote about this subject back on May 31, I have sent out a few emails, one to Mayor Tim Kelly requesting a few minutes to talk with him about the project. So far, I’ve had no response whatsoever. I think I will now go through my commissioner to help me and, while County Mayor Jim Coppinger is going through the motions waiting to leave office later this summer, he’s a good guy and I will try to see him as well. If the Tennessee State Legislature realizes that the complex I’m proposing will bring in close to $20 million each year, they would likely be more favorable to turn loose some tax dollars. 

All folks need to see for a comparable facility is look at the Space Coast Complex in Melbourne, Fla. The stadium now houses the USSSA Pride Women’s Fast Pitch team and serves as a major hub for USSSA sports. The stadium and 15 youth fields sit on an 85-acre complex. With 191 acres available at the Wheland site, there is more than enough room for Chattanooga’s facility. 

People may get tired of me writing about this topic but there are two things I am extremely passionate about. One is young people and making sure they are cared for. The other is baseball/softball. If I had the money, I would build the facility myself. But I don’t, so I need help. It makes perfect sense to build it. I’ll wait for any and all responses. 

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