Is a new stadium in the Lookouts future?
A "win, win, win" and enough time to build a new stadium in Chattanooga is all Jason Freier needs and the Chattanooga Lookouts would no longer be playing inside AT&T Field on Hawk Hill.
A "win, win, win" scenario and enough time to build a new stadium in Chattanooga is all Jason Freier needs and the Chattanooga Lookouts would no longer be playing inside AT&T Field on Hawk Hill.
Freier the CEO of Hardball Capital is the head of the ownership group that purchased the Chattanooga Lookouts in March of 2015. Hardball Capital also owns and operates the Fort Wayne TinCaps and the Columbia Fireflies. Two franchises that both had new stadiums built shortly after Freier and Hardball Capital took over.
Both for different reasons but both were "win, win, win" scenarios as Freier calls it.
Freier lists those three wins in this specific order:
- 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.
Freier admits that Chattanooga's AT&T Park which opened in 2000 isn't prehistoric but it was "built on the cheap" and "has design mistakes."
First let's address the price tags. AT&T Park opened in 2000, the same time as Fifth Third Field in Dayton, Ohio and Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.
The Lookouts say AT&T Park was built for approximately $12-million. Fifth Third Field was built for approximately $39-million and Isotopes Park was built for approximately $29million. Of those three parks, AT&T Park is the only one without a 360 walk-around for fans to walk the entire stadium under the seats.
As far as the design mistakes. Freier pointed out the backdrop for not being picturesque and doesn't showcase the "Scenic City," the sun is an issue for fans during certain times of the year and the flow inside and around the city isn't ideal for fans walking around.
He says AT&T Park is absolutely a "functional facility" but said he "feels like we can improve upon it tremendously if given the opportunity."
To reiterate Freier isn't hinting at a move out of Chattanooga. He says they have no intention to sell or leave the city. If all three wins are met it would be in the downtown area.
Freier says several have approached him in town with ideas but the right opportunity hasn't yet presented itself to leave Hawk Hill.
Freier is halfway through his second season in Chattanooga. When asked if he sees the Lookouts at AT&T Park at the five-year mark, he said it's more likely than not and reminded us the construction alone can take approximately 16-17 months.
When asked if he thought the Lookouts would be at AT&T Field at the10-year mark which would be 2025, he paused and said, "that leaves a lot more opportunities for the right situation to present itself."
Does Freier have a desired downtown location on his mind? If he does, he's not sharing it. Not unless you have a "win, win, win" scenario to offer.