Chattanooga Lookouts

The Chattanooga Lookouts played the Tennessee Smokies on April 28 at AT&T Field in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. AT&T Field opened for the 2000 season.

(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.

https://www.thecentersquare.com/tennessee/tennessee-lawmakers-approve-sales-tax-deal-for-new-chattanooga-lookouts-stadium/article_e0321672-ca24-11ec-bd0c-5b753a862813.html

Staff Reporter

Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.