New Chattanooga Lookouts stadium lands ballpark, historic building architects | Chattanooga Times Free Press


A pair of architectural consultants, one specializing in designing ballparks and entertainment venues and another with expertise in reusing historic buildings, are joining the Chattanooga Lookouts stadium project.

“It’s a ballpark specialist and an adaptive reuse specialist. Those have been pre-selected to be part of the team,” said Jason Freier, managing owner of the minor league baseball club, on Thursday.

Mike Sabatini of suburban Kansas City, who was the lead architect for a ballpark built in 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina — where Freier operates another minor league club — has come on board the Chattanooga project, the Lookouts owner said in an interview.

Freier, after a short meeting of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Sports Authority, said Sabatini has more than 30 years of experience at national architecture firms designing ballparks and venues.

Also, S9 Architecture in New York City has expertise in reusing historic buildings, Freier said, such as those on the old 120-acre foundry site where the planned stadium will sit in Chattanooga’s South Broad District.

The company’s website said it has a staff of 60 designers with an approach “rooted in ‘modern contextualism’ and inspired by urban narratives.”

The two consultants will work with a local architectural firm when it’s selected by the Sports Authority, which could be as early as next month, an official told the panel.

Dennis Malone, Chattanooga’s assistant city engineer, said the city earlier sent a request for qualifications to a list of architectural firms doing business locally about the planned stadium that will replace AT&T Field near the riverfront.

“We’ve started the evaluation process,” Malone told the panel. “We’re going now to the interview process.”

Over the next couple of weeks, Malone said, plans are to finalize a document to come before the authority in June.

When work starts, he said, there will be a six-month design period for the multi-use facility that’s expected to anchor the stadium site where West 26th and West 28th streets intersect the U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry parcel off Broad Street.

Freier said the local firm will carry out a significant majority of the work designing the ballpark that’s slated to hold between 5,000 and 6,000 permanent seats.

But, he said, his experience and that of Jim Irwin, president of Atlanta-based New City Properties and the master developer of the foundry tract, enabled them to bring the consulting architects to the project.

Last month, the stadium’s developers picked the specific location for the planned new ballpark to maximize the reuse of the site’s historic buildings in the design.

“They will make it different than any other minor league stadium,” Irwin said in April.

Officials have said the Sports Authority created by the county and city would issue up to $79.5 million in bonds to fund construction of the new stadium. But officials said recently that rising inflation is a concern, and it’s uncertain when the panel will go out to the bond market.

Irwin said a more firm cost of the stadium will be known after the design process is started and a construction manager is hired later this year.

He said excavation could start at the site later this year and that a target for opening for the Lookouts’ spring 2025 season is on track.

In 2022, the city and county approved creation of a 470-acre special tax district around the planned stadium. Most of the new property tax revenue from the district along with Lookouts’ lease payments, sales taxes, parking revenues and $1.4 million each from the city and county will pay debt service on 30-year bonds for the project, officials said.

Officials have said that with proposed and new investment around the stadium, upwards of $1 billion or more in development could go in the area.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318.

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