Finley Stadium is recognized as the best of its kind among Division I-FCS stadiums, and the 20,668-seat state-of-the-art facility is the crown jewel for the Chattanooga’s Southside revitalization.
Built on the site of the former Rock Tenn plant in what was then a neglected part of Chattanooga’s Southside, Finley Stadium opened its doors to the public on October 18, 1997. An overflow crowd of 22,646 filled the seats around Davenport Field to watch the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs football team defeat Tennessee State 28-7.
A stadium project for UTC and Chattanooga had been talked about by city leaders for quite some time before the dream came to fruition. At the time UTC played on Chamberlain Field, which at the time was the second-oldest on-campus stadium in the nation. A facility was needed to take the UTC football program to a higher level and to elevate the city’s status to a full-service, mid-sized city.
The $28.5 million project needed supporters, and leaders found plenty of them. Private donations ranged anywhere from $10 to $1 million, totalling $10.2 million – 40 percent of the project. The City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County contributed $13 million, the State of Tennessee gave $3.5 million and the University donated $2.9 million.
Finley Stadium is named in honor of the late W. Max Finley. The former Chairman of the Rock Tenn Corporation dedicated his life to public service and was an active supporter of the University of Tennessee system. He received both the University of Chattanooga Distinguished Alumni Award and the Outstanding Service Award of the UTC Alumni Council and was inducted into the University’s Hall of Fame.
The playing field is named in honor of the late Gordon Lee Davenport. The President and CEO of the Krystal Company from 1975-85 served as the first Chairman of the Stadium Corporation and Campaign and worked endlessly and tirelessly in the planning and actual development of the facility. Davenport, a longtime friend of UTC athletics and particularly Mocs football, received the UTC Alumni Council Outstanding Service Award and is a member of the University’s Hall of Fame.
Davenport attended the stadium’s grand opening, participated in the opening ceremonies and was presented a game ball from UTC head coach Buddy Green following the Mocs’ victory over Tennessee State.
Bronze busts of both Finley and Davenport adorn the main entryway to the stadium.
The Stadium Corporation left nothing out of its masterpiece. The facility, designed by Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson and built by C&I Specialty, both of Chattanooga, contains 32 luxury sky boxes and 3,465 preferred chairbacked seats. The $350,000 scoreboard includes a giant matrix screen, and the Stadium Club can hold 250 for pregame or postgame functions. The press box can hold 60 media representatives, has three radio booths and a television broadcast booth. Identical home and visitors’ locker rooms contain a separate training area and coaches locker room, as well as an extensive player locker area.
In May 2005, the first artificial turf surface was installed at Finley Stadium, after eight seasons with a natural grass field. In 2015, the surface was replaced with AstroTurf’s state-of-the-art 3D Xtreme product. Along with an UltraBase system underneath the surface, Davenport Field now has one of the best playing surfaces in the country. In 2015, Finley Stadium also partnered with EcoChemical to create a system for paint conversions to happen seamlessly between soccer and football.
Adjacent to the stadium is the First Tennessee Pavilion. The old Ross-Meehan Foundry has been renovated into an open-air pavilion which is now home to multiple events throughout the year, most notably the Chattanooga Market. First Tennessee Pavilion has also become a favorite for tailgaters, complete with food and beverage concessions and a children’s area. The pavilion offers tailgaters a perfect atmosphere around the stadium while providing protection from the weather without being indoors.
Besides serving as the home of Mocs Football, Finley Stadium Davenport Field hosted the NCAA Division I Football Championship from 1997 to 2009. It is also host to the Chattanooga Football Club, UTC, international and high school soccer, high school football, national lacrosse tournaments, concerts and other community festivals.
|September 1984||Gordon Davenport and UTC Chancellor Fred Obear discuss plans to build a 30,000-seat stadium at a cost of about $10 million, hopefully completed in time for the 1986 football season.|
|1990||Sports Inc., a nonprofit stadium planning group formed by Bryan Patten, explores the possibility of constructing a 25,000 seat stadium to hold soccer preliminaries for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. The Ross-Meehan Foundry location is touted as a potential site.|
|June 26, 1993||Gordon Davenport, former President of the Krystal Company, agrees to head a campaign to raise $7 million for the proposed facility from the private sector.|
|June 1993||A plan for the proposed $23.3 million Tennessee Bicentennial Stadium is unveiled during a rare joint meeting of the Chattanooga City Council and the Hamilton County Commission.|
|July 1993||Despite stadium efforts, Chattanooga is eliminated as a possible site for soccer in the 1996 Olympic Games.|
|October 9, 1995||Gordon Davenport is named the first board member of The Stadium Corporation.|
|December 1995||The Stadium Corporation announces the new stadium will hold a capacity of 20,000, with 3,500 chair backs seats on each side, with the possibility of eventually expanding the capacity to 50,000.|
|March 7, 1996||Ground is broken for the stadium, with an expected completion date of fall 1997.|
|October 10, 1996||The new facility is to be named Finley Stadium Davenport Field, after the late former Chairman of the Rock-Tenn Corporation and active UTC supporter W. Max Finley and Chairman of The Stadium Corporation Gordon L. Davenport.|
|December 1996||Plans finalized to turn the historic Ross-Meehan Foundry into a 55,000 square foot open-air pavilion for $750,000.|
|April 1997||The Chattanooga Sports and Events Committee announces that the NCAA has agreed to play the NCAA Division I-AA National Championship Game at Finley starting in 1997.|
|October 18, 1997||The Chattanooga Mocs play Tennessee State in the River City Classic and the first ever game at Finley Stadium Davenport Field in front of 22,646 fans. The previous record attendance for a Mocs game was 12,003|
|November 1, 1997||The U.S. Women’s National soccer team plays the Sweden National team in the first ever soccer game at Finley Stadium., in front of 13,433.|
|June 2001||TVA installs its biggest solar power-generating complex to date right in front of Finley Stadium’s south side entrance.|
|April 7, 2001||The Chattanooga Market debuts in the then named Cricket Pavilion.|
|October 10, 2003||First Tennessee Bank wins bid on the naming rights for the pavilion, the name First Tennessee Pavilion remains to this day.|
|March 2005||The Stadium Corporation approved new artificial turf to be installed by T.C. Thiolon USA and Precision Sports Fields Inc. The total cost of the project is $295,000|
|February 2010||NCAA announces Chattanooga will no longer be the host site for the Football Championship Series Game.|
|September 3, 2009||With Russ Huesman’s first game as Head Coach and B.J. Coleman’s first game at Quarterback, UTC posted its highest attendance in 10 years, in front of 14,002 fans in a 30-13 win against Glenville State.|
|July 26, 2014||Chattanooga Football Club breaks the NPSL attendance record with 8,878 fans for the National Semifinal win against the Sacramento Gold.|
|December 6, 2014||UTC Football hosts its first ever FCS playoff game in Finley Stadium, beating Indiana State 35-14.|
|April 2015||The new AstroTurf 3D Xtreme product is installed. Along with the UltraBase system beneath the surface, Davenport Field is now one of the most state-of-the-art fields in the country!|