Nashville Mayor Megan Barry unveiled details for a soccer stadium Monday, saying it would cost $250 million but get 90 percent of its funding from private dollars and revenues generated at the stadium.
Barry announced the plans along with John Ingram, the lead investor for Nashville’s Major League Soccer expansion bid. The 27,500-seat stadium would be built at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
But Rick Williams, Chairman of Save Our Fairgrounds, vows to fight the proposal, as currently structured.
“I was able to watch most of Mayor Barry’s speech this afternoon and the other participants in the MLS Soccer Stadium presentation to the Metropolitan Nashville City Council. My first reaction is our government is again giving away land to developers,” Williams tells The Tennessee Star in an exclusive interview.
The 10 Acres that Rich Rebling wants to give away to developers is worth 10 million dollars. Everything like this land give away that the Mayor’s administration has done in the past 2 years has cost Taxpayers over 100 million dollars in value.
My other reaction is after this plan is finished, the amount of land left for a State Fair, Flea Market and the Nashville Fairgrounds Raceway will be over 1/2 less of the land when Mayor Barry took office.
I am open to discussing this plan with the Mayor’s Office to see if we can find common ground.
But I am concerned that we are on a very fast schedule to be finished in less than 45 days. This land was donated by the Rains family for the exclusive use to host The Tennessee State Fair annually. All events taking place at Fairgrounds were to be used to make money to have a fantastic Tennessee State Fair. The Fair Board has the powers in the State Private Act to do everything the Sports Authority is being tapped to do here on the Fairgrounds property.
“The Fair board is scheduled to vote on a MOU between the Fairgrounds and the Park Board giving the Park Board some control over 45 acres,” Williams added.
“We are considering our legal and political options as we speak,” Williams concluded.
Mayor Barry said in a news release that winning the franchise would be “an incredible opportunity for Nashville to continue its growth and take its place on the global stage” and that the deal “safeguards taxpayers with a truly private-public partnership.”
Funding would come from three sources, according to the news release: $200 million in revenue bonds, $25 million in cash from the MLS ownership group, and $25 million in Metro general obligation bonds to pay for public infrastructure. The MLS ownership group would cover lease payments used for debt service of the revenue bonds and pay any construction cost overruns.
Metro Nashville would also propose allowing the ownership group to lease about 10 acres of land at the fairgrounds to support mixed-use, mixed income development that would include affordable and workforce housing.
Barry said she is also committed to improving and rebuilding aging expo and fair facilities.
“This proposal honors all existing uses of the fairgrounds, and will pave the way for those groups and activities to grow and thrive,” Barry said.
Government watchdog groups have kept a close eye on the development of plans for the soccer stadium.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee said last week it is against using any tax dollars for the stadium but that if tax dollars are to be used, there should be a referendum to let taxpayers decide if that’s how they want their money spent.
Other local grassroots activists are equally skeptical of the stadium proposal.
“When billionaires come knocking on the courthouse door our Mayors invariably turn into fawning groupies worried that the big guy won’t invite them to the next cocktail party. And taxpayers always wind up getting treated like second class citizens. It is time to stop subsidizing billionaires and their sports team play toys,” Ben Cunningham, founder of the Nashville Tea Party, tells The Star.