A recent column in the Times Free Press by my old friend David Cook took exception to the Red Wolves SC setting up shop in East Ridge.
Bob Martino, the owner of the Red Wolves soccer club, has plans to build a 5,500 seat soccer stadium for the team which will be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development along the lines of “The Battery Atlanta” at the Braves’ Sun Trust Park.
I for one am cheering my hind end off for Martino, the Red Wolves and what this project could do for East Ridge, Tennessee.
To listen to Cook, I’m not a very good person if I do that. Why? If I cheer for Martino and the Red Wolves, I’m cheering against Tim Kelly’s homegrown soccer team of the Chattanooga Football Club (CFC).
What? I don’t get it. I don’t know nothing about soccer, folks, but the last time I checked, CFC is an “amateur” soccer organization, says so on its Website. CFC won the Hank Steinbrecher Cup as the USASA Amateur National Champions.
The Red Wolves are one of 10 team’s in the United Soccer League (USL) League One, made up of professional soccer players.
That’s like saying I can’t get behind Big Orange football because I cheer for the East Ridge Pioneers at Shanks Field on Friday nights.
But, this column is not about soccer … or sports. It’s about business, development, competition and the hearts and minds of those who consume entertainment.
Make no mistake, Kelly and Martino are businessmen, successful businessmen at that. And I would venture to wager that both men are about as competitive as it gets.
Kelly seems to be concerned that Martino is coming into his zip code and upsetting the apple cart on what appears to be a soccer monopoly. Kelly’s pushing back, saying in an interview with treblsoccer.com that Martino’s entry into the market is “a laughable annoyance.”
When Martino announced he was going to invest $125 million to build a soccer stadium in East Ridge and surround it with stores, restaurants, lodging and a convention center, my bride said, “he can’t make that kind of money on soccer, can he?”
Of course not. It’s about the shopping, entertainment and lodging in the complex that is going to surround the soccer stadium. Soccer is the jumping off point for commerce.
But, Kelly and CFC don’t have any of that other stuff, do they? They play their games at Finley Stadium, and they have a very enthusiastic fan base that turns out in record-setting droves to watch their beloved team compete.
Many in that same fan base pulled out their wallets when the CFC offered shares of stock in the team.
Kelly used no less than the Green Bay Packers as a business model to take CFC public. I’ve read published reports that the stock offering raised $800,000 for CFC. That’s fantastic.
I, for one, am going to stand up and cheer for that.
I’m also going to stand up and cheer when the Kelly-owned Southern Honda Powersports breaks ground on its new building on Ringgold Road near Jordan Crossing.
Last year, the East Ridge Industrial Development Board, along with the City Council, agreed to incentives providing the dealership, potentially, as much as $7 million over a 22-year period. It’s a great deal for the city – projections are that Southern Honda Powersports could sell more than $200 million worth of ATVs over that time period. That’s a lot of local sales tax going into the city’s coffers.
It’s a great deal for Kelly, in that his business gets a much higher profile location in which to market his product.
Yet, the property where Southern Honda Powersports is to make its new home has yet to have any dirt disturbed.
That property on Ringgold Road is adjacent to Chickamauga Creek. Sources tell me that the land near the creek poses a problem; there are concerns about the integrity of a building’s foundation. Might be too muddy, as it’s in a low-lying area.
I’m casually acquainted with both Martino and Kelly. I get a good feeling about both men. It’s clear that both like soccer. It’s clear that both like making money.
Bob Martino buying a soccer team franchise and building a complex to provide a unique experience for folks of all kinds is without a doubt a game-changer for East Ridge.
I’ve got to cheer for that.