(The Center Square) — State sales tax funding for a new baseball stadium in Chattanooga was passed in the last week of Tennessee’s legislative session.
House Bill 2609 was approved 79-11 by the House and 28-0 in the Senate. It would allow the Chattanooga Lookouts to move to a new stadium in the city and retain a sales tax deal where the Lookouts keep the first 5.5% of the state’s 7% sales tax for sales at the stadium and would extend the deal to apply to non-baseball events at the stadium.
The team is considering building a new $86.5 million park on the 141-acre Wheland Foundry/U.S. Pipe parcel in the South Broad District, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The city and county have not announced how much of a new Lookouts stadium they will fund.
The Lookouts currently play at AT&T Field, which opened in 2000, and had a previous deal to retain 5.5% of the state sales tax on stadium sales. A fiscal note on the sales tax collections at the stadium estimates that the bill, which will next head to Gov. Bill Lee, will bring in $110,000 in additional funds.
The Lookouts are the Double-A minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
Based on a similar stadium in Nashville, First Horizon Park, the bill’s fiscal note estimates that the stadium could host 40 non-baseball events each year.
If Chattanooga and Hamilton County continue their deal to allow the team to retain sales tax at the park, and extend it to non-baseball events like the state has, then there would be an additional $45,000 annual increase in taxes the team can keep.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said that Chattanooga could form a sports authority for the stadium deal and the bill was "to offer tax increment financing if the city and county wants to do a stadium for the sports authority."
The plan was described by Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, as similar to one approved last year for the Tennessee Smokies to retain sales tax at a new stadium.
That plan, however, allowed the sales tax retention to extend to a new development on a $142 million mixed-use development surrounding the stadium that could include 630,000 square feet of residential space, restaurants and retail in the ballpark vicinity.
This year’s state budget also included $13.5 million in direct funding for the Knoxville stadium for the team owned by Randy Boyd, president of the University of Tennessee System.