Ever since hearing that Finley Stadium officials were inspired by what they saw at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, which now hosts the Football Championship Series Championship game that used to be in Chattanooga, I've been trying to imagine how our stadium and the facilities around it could host big-time concerts of the type that we don't get now.
First, we are not Frisco, which is outside of Dallas, and Finley is not Pizza Hut Park. But after seeing the similarity in design, it is easy to understand why the Carter Street folks were inspired. Both locations have a patio or pavilion area at one end. At Pizza Hut there is a permanent stage with lighting and sound towers. Bands play there, and fans sit both in the stands and on the field, allowing for crowds in the range of 15,000-30,000.
Finley does not have towers, and retrofitting them would be expensive, while renting them adds to the per-show cost. That would have to be addressed, but seeing pictures of concerts at Pizza Hut Park was inspiring.
I do not believe that Finley itself is the only option, however, and would caution against booking single, big-time concerts there. They are expensive and risky because of fickle ticket buyers and the weather.
Yes, a Paul McCartney or a Jimmy Buffet (he's not coming back to Chattanooga, so we need to get over it, however) would likely sell well, because fans from all over would come. But again, bad weather can mess even that up. Plus, despite being able to sell tickets in the $100 range, the expenses would be crazy high. The break-even number goes up with the artist fee, obviously.
My suggestion is that the entire facility, which is a huge bonus, be used for the production of a multishow, or even a multiday, event.
This is not an original idea. Kenneth Farmer, a former UTC student, proposed it in November 2011. While I thought he faced high hurdles when he told me his idea, the concept had merit.
Farmer wanted to put a stage in First Tennessee Pavilion and another in the main parking lot, in addition to inside the stadium, and he wanted to have vendors set up everywhere around the campus. He also wanted to engage downtown hotels and businesses and create a festival similar to the Hangout and DeLuna festivals in Florida.
These primarily daytime festivals are held in Gulf Shores, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., and while they have the advantage of the beach, they are essentially integrated into the businesses around the main areas.
We have Riverbend, you say. Yeah, well, I haven't quite worked out how the two could co-exist or work together, but I think they can. In my mind, they would be different entities, attracting different fans. Tickets for this event would be much higher than Riverbend, but I think people would pay it.
And I'm really just focusing on how to get live music at Finley.
For example, I'd love to see My Morning Jacket or The Flaming Lips in Finley, Girl Talk or Bassnectar in the pavilion and fun. or The Dirty Guv'nahs outside.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...