A Major League Soccer stadium planned for the fairgrounds in Nashville is closer to happening.
The Metro Council voted 24-7 Tuesday on the second of three readings to move forward on the $275 million deal, The Tennessean said. The third reading is scheduled for Sept. 4.
The vote was to demolish buildings at the fairgrounds to allow a 30,500-seat stadium for an MLS expansion club. Eight council members abstained.
The council also voted 24-9, with six abstentions, to declare 10 acres of fairgrounds land as surplus. The bill would lease that land to a team ownership group led by billionaire businessman John Ingram for 99 years for a private mixed-use development next to the stadium.
People both for and against the plan packed the council chambers, NewsChannel 5 said. A public hearing on the mixed use project will be held Monday at 6 p.m.
In a lavish ceremony last December at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame, Gov. Bill Haslam, Mayor Megan Barry, and a slew of dignitaries gathered to hear Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Gaber announce that Nashville was awarded an MLS expansion club, The Tennessee Star previously reported.
The Sept. 4 vote to demolish the fairground buildings will need 27 of 40 votes in the council, The Tennessean said.
Councilman John Cooper was one of the plan’s critics, especially of the private development.
“This is an affirmative taking of land cherished by people for more than 100 years,” Cooper said. “It is (property) fundamental to Nashville.”
Save Our Fairground filed a lawsuit to stop the MLS soccer stadium construction, which was ultimately dismissed.
The Nashville Sports Authority was a finalist for the Beacon Center’s 2017 “Pork of the Year,” as The Star reported.
The Beacon Center described the Nashville Sports Authority in these terms:
“The practice of subsidizing stadiums with taxpayer money is becoming less and less popular nationwide, yet the city of Nashville seems to have no plans of slowing down. As we start to have a discussion about a new MLS stadium, which will be heavily subsidized by taxpayers, it is time we take a stand and stop this corrupt and unethical practice.”
Internationally renowned soccer executive Ian Ayre was announced as the first-ever CEO of Nashville’s Major League Soccer club, The Star reported in May.
Under a 30-year stadium lease agreement, the ownership group would pay around $9 million each year to help retire an estimated $13 million in annual debt, The Tennessean said. Metro has guaranteed at least $4 million from sales tax revenue collected at the stadium and a ticket tax, but the city would be liable if those plans don’t work.
However, Nashville’s government is not rolling in cash. It hit a $34 million revenue shortfall, threatening its ability to fund schools and pay raises, The Tennessee Star reported in June.
Perhaps the city’s future “Blue Ribbon Commission” will one day be allowed to critique the pork project, The Star reported in June. The commission is a citizen panel that will scour Metro’s budget for savings potential, WPLN said.