Save Our Fairgrounds Wants Nashville Metro Council to Vote No on Soccer Stadium Tuesday

The group Save Our Fairgrounds is getting ready for Tuesday’s Metro Council meeting, at which members plan to ask the council to vote no on Mayor Megan Barry’s proposal for a soccer stadium and development at the Nashville Fairgrounds.

The group’s main objection is the plan to allow for a mixed-used development on 10 acres that is in addition to the soccer stadium. Plans call for affordable and workforce housing, a hotel and retail. Some Metro Council members have also expressed concerns about that part of the deal.

Barry wants Major League Soccer (MLS) to choose Nashville for an expansion team. The 10 acres for development would be leased to the MLS ownership group.

“We would welcome MLS soccer and the soccer stadium to the fairgrounds, but not at the expense of taking away 10 acres and giving it away freely to the team owners,” Rick Williams, chairman of Save Our Fairgrounds, said on Facebook Friday.

Some Metro Council members have voiced concerns about the 10 acres as well, and also have pressed Barry’s office for stronger language holding the ownership team responsible for costs of the stadium to limit risks for taxpayers. While some general obligation bonds would be used, Barry’s office has insisted the entire project would be 90 percent privately funded.

Funding would come from $200 million in revenue bonds, $25 million in cash from the ownership group and $25 million in Metro general obligation bonds. Barry has also said she’s committed to fully funding the fairgrounds master plan with up to $25 million to improve existing facilities in addition to the $12 million already approved for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Barry has said that the ownership group would be responsible for lease payments for the facility used for debt service of the revenue bonds and any construction cost overruns.

Revised language from Barry’s office attempts to strengthen guarantees related to the ownership group’s responsibility for debt service. A personal guaranty would not be required as long as lead investor John Ingram has a controlling interest in the team. But should that change, his successor would have to provide a guaranty on paying all cost overruns and annual lease payments.

But the proposal is still lacking, says at-large Metro Council member Bob Mendes.

“The legislation does not provide any enforcement mechanism to force a new lead investor to provide a guaranty,” Mendes wrote in a blog post Friday. “From my perspective, this means the guaranty only protects Metro if everything goes well (and therefore we don’t actually need it) and doesn’t protect Metro if things take a bad turn (and we do need the guaranty).”

Mendes also said the 10-acre development “has not been adequately justified.”

“There are not enough details about the proposed affordable housing onsite,” he wrote. “There are not enough details about what the land is worth to the team. The Council was provided with the value of comparable nearby vacant land with no soccer stadium on the site. But that wasn’t a helpful data point for me. In the end, if we don’t know what the land is worth to the team, and we don’t know what Metro is getting from the 10 acres, I don’t think I can support this part of the proposal.”

Tuesday’s Metro Council meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Metro Courthouse downtown. Meetings are broadcast live on Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T’s U-verse 99 and are streamed live at Metro Nashville Network’s livestream site.

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