The growth of Chattanooga over the last several years has been nothing short of incredible. In the mid-90s, work began in earnest to build a new football stadium for UTC. Many were involved, but history points to two men as key drivers in the effort: W. Max Finley, former Chairman of Rock Tenn Corporation (now WestRock, the second largest packing company in the U.S.) and Gordon L. Davenport, former President/CEO of the Krystal Company.
Fundraising came from private and public sources with the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County being the largest contributors—giving nearly half of the $28.5 million raised to begin construction (that’s $45 million in today’s dollars). Construction began in early 1996 and the facility was formally opened on October 18, 1997. In addition to UTC Football, the Stadium also serves as the permanent home to Chattanooga FC semi-professional soccer, UTC Soccer and dozens of annual high school and college competitions and jamborees.
A lessor known account is that the Ross-Meehan Foundry—more widely known today as the First Tennessee Pavilion—was originally slated to be torn down and made into a parking lot. Community visionaries, led by what is now the River City Company, invested an additional $1m into transforming the derelict structure into what is today one of Chattanooga’s most popular destinations for festivals and community events including: 4 Bridges Arts Festival, Chattabrewga, River Street Auto Show and the Tennessee Whiskey Festival. The Chattanooga Market is a weekly favorite of mine (and thousands of my closest friends) and is now enjoying it’s 17th Season in this nearly-demolished home.
In June, Public Markets, Inc. (the organization which operates the Chattanooga Market, along with several other projects) was selected by the stadium board to become the primary managers of the overall campus. It’s a new partnership that I’m excited to lead, and one which we believe will create a more vibrant campus and efficient management approach. With over 140 combined staff and employees, we look forward to serving the community and hosting new festivals and events on our campus.
Publisher, Chattanooga Magazine
Executive Director, Public Markets, Inc.
Executive Director, Stadium Corporation, Inc.