Wiedmer: Why can’t Chattanooga build a better school system and a better ballpark?

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jul 9, 2022

With our sincere apologies to 16th century rapper Billy Shake, it seems our beautiful city has been dominated by the following choice: “To build or not to build (a new minor league ballpark), that is the question. “

To dig deeper into the tussle: “Is it nobler to build a monument to sports, hoping to unite our diverse population on summer nights in a melting pot (no jokes about the heat and humidity) of different skin colors and economic means; or would it be more responsible to take up arms against a sea of ​​educational problems and by opposing them with taxpayer dollars and community action, end them? »

Because that seems to be the crux of the argument. A new stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts on the one hand, or fresh money to throw at an old and stubborn Scenic City problem on the other: public education.

It’s not that simple, of course. It might not even be entirely accurate. There is nothing there that defines this as an either/or situation. Not building the new stadium on the site that has been the eyesore of US Pipe/Wheland Foundry for decades does not guarantee that a safe full of cash will end up in our education system for ruined buildings, l improving teachers’ salaries, etc.

And before we go any further into the overall sad state of public schools here, many parents need to look in the mirror and wonder if they’re doing all they can to help their kids get the most out of it. of the educational opportunities they have.

To speak to almost any public school teacher or coach in private is to hear far too many sad and sometimes heartbreaking stories of children who show up to class every morning without being fed, bathed, dressed in clean clothes and suffering from a lack of sleep.

It’s not in the school system. It’s on the parents or guardians. Only on parents or guardians. And until that changes, many others are unlikely to change for the better. It may indeed take a whole village to raise a youngster, but it must start at home, with the parents or guardians who are meant to raise them and protect them from harm.

Is it easy? Certainly not. CERTAINLY NOT! Especially if it’s a single parent working two jobs while barely making ends meet. And anyone can find an example of someone who overcame monstrous odds to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a multi-millionaire athlete or entertainer.

Yippee for them. But this is not the norm. Look for the best schools and school systems, and interested, involved, and dedicated parents are usually nearby, checking on homework done, baths or showers taken and teeth brushed, tests or projects to come are prepared.

Until that changes, until the public not only demands better schools, but supports those demands with sweat equity, doing everything from landscaping to painting to supporting teachers rather than little Bobby or Brandy every time they misbehave or don’t do their homework, all the money in Fort Knox won’t dramatically improve public education here.

So if your concern supporting a new minor league ballpark is that it will take education money, it won’t. According to those campaigning for a new home for the Lookouts, the entire project would actually generate up to $40 million for Hamilton County Public Schools over a 30-year period.

That might not be a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but it’s at least something for a school system that needs so much on so many fronts.

Or as Commissioner David Sharpe of Red Bank told the Times Free Press last week: “(It is) a critical need in our community as we struggle to not only have the revenue in place to meet the needs of “a growing and expanding community while investing in facilities that already exist. We have frankly failed in this area for the past 40 years or more, and we need to get it right.”

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build a stadium either.

For starters, if you’re into that kind of thing, not building a new stadium would eliminate minor league baseball here, probably for quite a while. Major League Baseball has previously declared AT&T Field to fall woefully short of its expectations for a minor league facility. Staying downtown on Hawk Hill, even with a renovation, would almost certainly not satisfy MLB.

Yes, we could do without Lookouts. We have before. But it’s more than just lookouts when looking to spruce up the former US Pipe/Wheland Foundry site. This is to make the first impression of Scenic City as you drive around Moccasin Bend toward town on Interstate 24 East a decidedly positive rather than overwhelmingly negative impression.

It’s about bringing together South Broad, Main Street and the Finley Stadium area, making the city much more attractive across the board, with new opportunities to further expand this growth.

As for concerns that all of this is really just moving entertainment and tourism dollars from the North Shore and Tennessee Aquarium areas to South Broad and Main – essentially moving money rather than multiply – Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly begs to delay.

In a Friday email, Kelly’s office wrote that it “is confident the construction of the new stadium will catalyze new development in the South Broad area while stimulating redevelopment opportunities in the central business district. We’re excited to see how this aligns with future redevelopment plans for the existing AT&T site. With three people moving to Chattanooga for every one moving, it’s critical that we continue to manage smart growth that supports all parts of our city.

With three people moving in for each departure, may the children of Chattanooga have the chance that these new citizens are pushing as hard for better public education as our current elected officials are pushing for a new ballpark.

That would be smart growth at its best.

Marc Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.