The average home attendance for UTC football games the past five seasons:
2008: 5,748 (record low)
2010: 12,699 (record high)
Lower attendance at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football games this past season resulted in a loss of nearly $20,000 in concessions and parking revenue, according to Finley Stadium executive director Merrill Eckstein.
Concessions were off more than $14,000 compared to the 2011 season, Eckstein said, with parking off $5,500. The Stadium Corp. absorbed a loss of more than $4,000 out of the total drop in concessions.
The Mocs averaged more than 10,400 fans during the 2009 to '11 seasons but averaged only 9,521 in 2012. The decline was a surprise considering Appalachian State and Georgia Southerrn, the two biggest draws in the Southern Conference, each played at Finley Stadium.
Appalachian State helped provide a healthy crowd of 13,726 on Sept. 22, according to UTC figures, but a triple-overtime loss to Georgia Southern on Oct. 27 took place before only 8,908.
"The one that was surprising and disappointing to us was the Georgia Southern game," Eckstein said. "At that point in time, we were still in contention for the league title. We had a disappointing result against Appalachian State, when they ran away with it in the fourth quarter, but I would have expected much better for Georgia Southern.
"Other games were a little less, but that's the only one I would put in the disappointing category because it was surprisingly less than we expected, and I really don't have an answer for that."
UTC's games against Appalachian State and Georgia Southern had a combined attendance of 22,634, but the combined attendance of those two games in 2010 was 32,649. The Mocs defeated GSU 35-27 in 2010 before 17,414 fans, the second-largest crowd for a Mocs game in Finley Stadium history.
Eckstein said he and Finley Stadium full-time director of operations Jeff Clark are doing "a much better job of watching our expenses." The electric bill at the 20,668-seat facility is down $6,700 from this time last year, according to Eckstein, and security costs are nearly $5,000 lower, offsetting the losses the Stadium Corp. endured from concessions and parking.
There have been two major enhancements to the stadium since the Mocs wrapped up their third 6-5 season in four years with a 24-17 win over Elon on Nov. 17. A new roof above the skyboxes was installed at a cost of $44,000, and repairs under the artificial turf on the south side of the field have been made for $41,000.
Those costs were paid out of the Friends of Finley campaign.
"We've reached a point where we have financial stability out here," Eckstein said, "and I'm confident of the financial stability of the stadium and its ability to continue to operate without monstrous subsidies."
Changes on the horizon include replacing the lamps and lighting and replacing the turf. Eckstein said the lamp repairs will need to be done within the next two years and the field within the next four to seven.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...