Some Metro Council members are expressing reservations about Mayor Megan Barry’s soccer stadium proposal ahead of next week’s vote.
Most of those voicing concerns are primarily raising questions about the 10-acre mixed-use development planned for the Nashville Fairgrounds along with the stadium, according to what they told the Nashville Scene.
Barry is trying to attract a Major League Soccer expansion team to Nashville, and her $250 million plan calls for Metro to allow the ownership group to lease 10 acres at the fairgrounds for a mixed-use, mixed income development that would include affordable and workforce housing. There also would be a hotel and retail.
Council member Jeremy Elrod told the Nashville Scene he supports the stadium but not the plans for the 10 acres.
“Handing over the 10 acres for free isn’t needed to get a team here or to build the stadium,” Elrod said. “The team says they need amenities to make the game day experience work, but why should they receive for free the right to build them on Metro property? If the stadium and the area is going to do as well as everyone thinks, developers will be lining up to build around there.”
Council member Tanaka Vercher, who chairs the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, said the 10-acre development plans are “unsettling” and that she will vote no if they remain in the proposal.
John Cooper, an at-large council member, was critical of the 10 acres as well as the risks the stadium itself could pose as far as costs. He wants more guarantees in the proposal.
“To build a special-purpose facility like a stadium, I think, does require the Metro taxpayer to limit their risk, and that means actual guarantees,” Cooper said. “Two of our three stadiums can accommodate soccer. If neither of those stadiums are good enough, if you need a specialty fourth stadium, then you have to bear that risk.”
Bob Mendes, another at-large council member, wants to see stronger guarantees, too. He also was not enthused about the 10-acre development.
Barry spokesman Sean Braisted told The Tennessee Star that “the team would be responsible for making lease payments on the stadium, anticipated to be approximately $13 million per year.”
“State law allows for ticket tax and sales tax revenues generated at the stadium to be redirected to pay for the costs of the stadium,” Braisted said. “If revenues from those two sources are less than $4 million in years 1-5 of operations, or $3 million in years 6-10, Metro agrees to fund the difference. It is within the team’s best interest, however, to maximize the usage of the stadium to generate the revenues needed to fund the lease payments and make a profit.”
Some general obligation bonds would also be used, but Barry has said the project would be 90 percent privately funded.
Conversations are ongoing between council members and Barry’s office regarding amended language.