Bob Martino, the owner of the Chattanooga Red Wolves soccer team, announced on Thursday that East Ridge will be home to the USL team’s new stadium.
During a press conference outside East Ridge City Hall Martino said that he wants to break ground on the new state-of-the-art stadium located just off Spring Creek Road as soon as possible.
The 5,000 seat stadium will be just one element in a mixed-use development in which he is investing $125 million.
“Today, I am laying out a vision for a community-focused soccer and entertainment destination for our region,” Martino said. “The Chattanooga Red Wolves was founded with the ultimate goal of strengthening our community through soccer, and this investment doubles down on my commitment to the region, our players and the soccer community.
“People will be able to live, dine and play here, and experiencing professional soccer in a unique setting is at the heart of this development.”
The project is being built on 100 acres of land across Spring Creek Road from Parkridge East hospital and adjacent to the Spring Creek Gardens apartments. The land, Martino said, was purchased from Henry Luken, who owns the Osborne Shopping Center in the commercial district, and Fletcher Bright.
Martino said that the project is currently in the permitting phase and that engineering is underway for the stadium. He said he wants the stadium to be completed and available to host Red Wolves soccer matches in the 2020 season.
“I’d break ground tomorrow if I could,” Martino said.
Mayor Brian Williams said the project is the single-largest one ever undertaken in the City of East Ridge. The property, which has been unimproved for more than 50 years, could generate between $6 and $7 million in tax revenue for the city each year.
“I’m very excited,” Williams said. “It’s a great day in East Ridge.
“”There has never been a project of such magnitude in our city,” he continued. “This will bring 1,200 jobs to East Ridge and the taxes will go to support the city and our schools.
The soccer stadium will be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development that will include retail stores, restaurants, offices, apartments, condos and a hotel.
Martino said the plan includes 400 apartments and condominium units, 375 hotel rooms, 475,000-square feet of commercial space and green space with walking and nature trails. The build-out is anticipated to take three to five years.
“Coming from a real estate development background, we take plans that will fit a community and benefit the local economy,” Martino said. “It’s enjoyment for me watching the progress.”
The Red Wolves are in the beginning stages of building a soccer training facility in Camp Jordan Park. Five acres of the park, centered around the Weldon Osborne Stadium, will undergo a transformation in which locker rooms, coaches offices and a merchandising area will be constructed. Five additional acres adjacent to the park is in the process of being acquired strictly for the public’s use, officials said.
Plans call for a walking path, part of which would go under Interstate 75, to connect Camp Jordan to the Red Wolves stadium project.
When asked if the City would have to provide infrastructure for the project site, Mayor Williams said that there is a possibility that the four lanes of Spring Creek Road just north of Parkridge East, would be extended down to the existing North Smith Road, which is a dead-end into the development. He also said that North Mack Smith Road which terminates near the Budgetel Inn, may be extended for an access to the property from the South.
Williams said he does not anticipate that the City would shoulder the expense of sewer lines and other utilities for the project.
Any Border Region Act incentive money to Martino and the Red Wolves ownership would be negotiated in the future by the City Attorney and City Manager, Williams said.
Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd, who represents District 8, provided this statement to Red Wolves officials.
“Today’s announcement is very exciting,” Boyd said. “I have been waiting for over 25 years to see this land developed. This will be a destination location that hundreds of thousands of travelers along I-75 will visit.”