A proposal to expand Camp Jordan could help East Ridge become the region’s premier location for sporting tournaments.

The $15 million dollar plan calls for several new baseball, softball, football and soccer fields. The facility would also include space for sand volleyball and disc golf. The complex would include artificial surfaces and be built to NCAA standards to host competition-level sporting events up to the college level. 

Camp Jordan would be accessible to local teams and clubs. The plan would also expand the number of major sporting tournaments Camp Jordan hosts each year, bringing in millions of dollars to the local economy.

The same local business leaders who are behind the new Bass Pro Shops say they are advocates for the project and believe they can get the deal done without any new cost to taxpayers.

“We believe in this project and the potential improvements,” said John Healy, who is a part of the development team behind the Bass Pro Shop complex in East Ridge.

Healy, with Wolftever Development, says there has never been taxes collected on the 50-acre property and the City of East Ridge can pay off a loan for the project with all the new tax revenue from the group’s properties. Healy says the project would also generate additional hotel/motel and sales tax.

Healy’s team will not build the project, but is open to being a resource in its development.

The Chattanooga Football Club Academy, which includes 1,000 local athletes between ages 8 and 18, is also in favor of the project, saying it could greatly increase the number of teams coming to the Chattanooga area to play.

“It’s a huge benefit to Hamilton County and the City of East Ridge in terms of growth and exposure to what we have in this region,” said Matt Yelton, who serves as Executive Director for the Chattanooga Football Club Academy.

“In terms of tournament building, hosting regional league play, hosting the Tennessee State Cup, we could greatly increase the number of teams coming to play,” he added.

It will be up to the East Ridge City Council to approve the proposal, sending it to the Hamilton County Commission to work with the state on a loan to fund the project.

East Ridge Mayor, Brent Lambert, says he has the support of Hamilton County Commissioners. In a press release, sent Friday, Lambert says, "I am very pleased to have his pledge of complete support as we move forward collectively."

Lambert went on to say there is no timeline for when the project will take place, but the East Ridge City Council is expected to continue discussions on July 20.

Lambert's full statement is below:

"In recent days, a handful of articles have appeared regarding the potential redevelopment of Camp Jordan Park, and naturally, questions have arisen as a result.  The City of East Ridge has indeed participated in exploratory discussions with Hamilton County officials regarding improvements and expanded capacity at the 260-acre park, and those discussions are ongoing.

This redevelopment concept has been in the works for well over a year, and as East Ridge Mayor, I personally have met with Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger on several occasions to discuss the value of such a project—an effort that would make Camp Jordan the finest multi-sport, multi-event facility in the Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia area.  I applaud Mayor Coppinger’s vision, his willingness to entertain a dialogue, and of course, his support.

I also had the opportunity to meet with District 8 County Commissioner Tim Boyd on May 3 and September 13, 2016, in order to discuss the totality of the proposed facilities and the subsequent economic impact.  On Tuesday of this week, I received a copy of the attached letter from Commissioner Boyd.  I am very pleased to have his pledge of complete support as we move forward collectively.  I intend to meet with other county commissioners in the days ahead so that they, too, may have a thorough understanding of this concept.

A first-class, regional, multi-sport facility would have an immense economic development impact on East Ridge and Hamilton County as a whole.  Currently, Camp Jordan Park is the only likely asset in Hamilton County with enough acreage to attract major regional sporting events, and the existing park already has much of the expensive infrastructure necessary to complete such a project.  With its convenient location directly off Interstate 75 at Exit 1, these events would bring thousands of additional visitors every year who will stay, shop, and play in our area.

Camp Jordan is already home to many successful multi-sport activities, and the goal will be to make all of our facilities competition-level, which will allow us to compete for the regional sporting events that we now are unable to attract in our community (with the exception of softball).  Whether it’s hosting a 200+ team soccer tournament, the Southern Conference Cross Country Championships, or this weekend’s 100+ team lacrosse tournament—the largest to ever take place in the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Region—Camp Jordan is already an outstanding recreational asset to all of Hamilton County.  My desire is to make this wonderful area even better.

The City of East Ridge hopes to partner with Hamilton County to use property tax revenues from the Jordan Crossing development, which has a Hampton Inn under construction and already contains a Bass Pro Shops, to fund this redevelopment of Camp Jordan. These are new property tax revenues to the City and County as the majority of this property was previously government-owned and not on the tax rolls.  The City has no plans to use tax increment financing vehicles for this project, and all of the standard, allocated education portion will remain with our Hamilton County School System.

There is no definitive timetable at this juncture, and I have no doubt that additional questions will arise as we continue the discourse.  However, I look forward to those discussions and the opportunity to work jointly toward a responsible solution."