Choo Choo on track for bigger, better things.
Venues with visions stand the test of time, and the Chattanooga Choo Choo is living proof. Built in 1908 from the winning design for an American railroad station, the Terminal Station combined artistic and architectural elements that continue to inspire, in a venue that now will be at the heart of the city’s newly proposed entertainment district.
Adam and Monica Kinsey traveled the Southeast, visiting venues of all sizes, exploring and learning about what makes a venue work. Along the way they learned about what went into growing a city’s entertainment and music market.
They applied those lessons to Track 29 and, three years later, that 1,000-to-1,700-person venue has been a success, hosting 90 to 100 shows per year.
The Kinseys also learned that in order to grow the market, a city Chattanooga’s size would need more 100-person venues like JJ’s and, more importantly, a 500-person music venue.
Adam grew up with the Chattanooga Choo Choo. His father, Jon Kinsey, was a part of the investment group that saved the historic site from destruction and is now pumping $8 million into the renovation of the complex, which will include two new venues. When Adam was growing up, the “Choo Choo was in a bad part of town,” he says. “Now the Southside is a vibrant place to live and play and the Chattanooga Choo Choo is opening back up to its original roots.”
Construction started at the beginning of August. The new expansion is expected to be complete by spring 2015, just in time for the Comedy Catch to open and celebrate its 30th anniversary. The Comedy Catch, which is moving from Brainerd, and the new music venue, not named yet, are expected to bring more than 100,000 people per year to the Southside district. “Just as the Tennessee Aquarium brought traffic to the riverfront, these venues will grow the entertainment market by bringing more traffic to the Southside,” says Kinsey.
SAM’S All American Sports Bar and Grill, voted “best sports bar” repeatedly by readers of the Nashville Scene, will open onto Market Street and into the newly renovated lobby. The Blue Fish Oyster Bar, a four-star seafood restaurant with an extensive menu, will open onto Market Street and 14th Street. The Comedy Catch and the new music venue will both open on to 14th Street, and additional retail space will be available in the renovated Choo Choo complex.
The music venue is expected to host as many as 200 shows per year and, with a capacity of 500 people, will offer smaller tours with a more intimate experience. A mixture of country, Southern rock, indie and world-class bluegrass will be featured and shows will also include more local and regional artists, growing the market for the city and increasing opportunities for both musicians and live-music fan base.
If the Comedy Catch is “Chattanooga’s most fun night out”, the new Choo Choo will be at the heart of a district offering fun for everyone and complementing the businesses, restaurants and events already on the Southside. The facelift for the gallant ol’ gal is “capitalizing on the assets of an iconic building, creating an economic impact and adding to the vibrancy of Chattanooga,” according to Mayor Andy Berke.