Leahy, Glover, and Carmichael Weigh in on the Save Our Fairgrounds Legal Battle in Nashville



Live from music row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy and in-studio all-star panelist, Metro Councilman Steve Glover discussed the Nashville’s ever-evolving Major League Soccer stadium deal.

During the third hour, Glover explained the dynamics of the situation by converting the legalities of the use of the fairgrounds and how Mayor Cooper was able to renegotiate and salvage the property in between where the soccer stadium will go and the racetrack. Leahy added that the bottom line is that ownership is going to dedicate the land to a different purpose than the law allows.

Leahy: Welcome back to our microphones metro council member-at-large, Steve Glover. Good morning Steve.

Glover: Good morning sir. How are you today?

Leahy: And also our all-star panelist Crom Carmichael.

Carmichael: Good morning Michael. I’m still here.

Leahy: You’re still here. And it’s local issues now. We’re going to start off with the hot issue. Which is the soccer stadium deal. And we had Jim Roberts on the air with us on Friday. And he’s representing Save Our Fairgrounds. And basically his message was, and there was an announcement that Mayor Cooper has cut a deal finally, with the major league soccer guys and then John Ingram’s franchise.

Very wealthy John Ingram, very successful, and from a very successful family. They want to bring soccer here to Nashville. And the deal is they want 10 acres of land from the Fairgrounds to be dedicated not only for the stadium but for a mixed-use commercial purpose there. According to Jim Roberts, this is a violation of the law. There is a lawsuit pending. Where does all this go in your view, Steve Glover?

Glover: Court! I think that is ultimately where it will be settled. So, we were kind of talking on the way into the studio here today and there is not a whole lot of information so what I’d like to do is try to walk folks through. 

Leahy: Because it’s clear as mud on what the law is. And there are very different views on what the law is. Jim Roberts is absolutely convinced that the law prohibits the transfer of these 10 acres of land from the fairgrounds which has been since the 1920s dedicated for the purpose of education and the fairgrounds. He’s convinced this is a violation of the law. Metro legal counsel and the various administrations before Cooper have said, well not so much. We can do it because we’re the metro council government. Lay the facts out for us.

Glover: There’s a translation under the referendum that took place in 2011. Let me just say this, I agree with Jim. I believe that what we’ve done here is in violation. But that’s why I never voted for this. I never gave an affirmative on voting for it nor did then council at-large, now Mayor Cooper vote for it. We both fought it as far as we could fight it. The problem was they got 27 plus votes.

Leahy: So the council has basically said the metro council approved the idea of the deal even though according to Jim Roberts in the Save Our Fairgrounds crowd, the deal transferring the 10 acres to private interests for purposes other than education is a violation of the law and the metro charter. That’s the argument.

Glover: And again, I’m going to emphasize that I believe Jim is right. But, unfortunately, it’s now in the courts. Also, unfortunately under the last administration, we passed this thing. And so when we did…

Leahy: So the metro council passed the approval of this deal even though a contract as far as I can tell, has not ever been signed by the metro government.

Glover: Still hasn’t been.

Leahy: And the soccer team that’s going to make a lot of money off of this deal. It looks like they’re going to make a ton of money off of this transaction.

Glover: So I’m going to go ahead and take a stab in the dark here. I don’t believe soccer is going to make money. I believe that the 10 acres will make a lot of money.

Leahy: Because of the fact that they are going to dedicate it, Steve, then to a different purpose than the law allows.

Glover: That is the sticking point, right there.

Leahy: The law says from the 1920s when the land was given to the city, it was always in perpetuity for educational services of the fairgrounds. Now they’re going to use this land for a mixed-use commercial retail and residential development. And it’s very valuable land and they just got it for a song basically Crom.

Carmichael: That’s the part that’s confusing to me which is to whether or not that additional piece of land is now part of the deal or not. I heard that that piece of land was not now part of the deal. That the deal is only to build a stadium. Am I correct?

Leahy: It was a point of contention. But the last report I saw that Mayor Cooper conceded to the soccer franchise. And that land has been given to them. Am I right on that Steve?

Glover: I don’t think he conceded. I think he’s been put between a rock and a hard spot.

Leahy: To your point Crom, what’s really going on? What are the facts? Still very hard to ascertain.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: So the question is, is there a deal now that the Mayor has announced it? It looks like to me to be a bad deal and a violation of the law. I think Jim Roberts with Save Our Fairgrounds group has made a very good argument that this is an illegal use of that land that’s being transferred for non-educational purposes which was in the original deed for that. And at the very least in order to do this, there would have to be a referendum. That is in the courts. But the Mayor’s cut a deal, apparently, have we seen the signed document on it yet?

Glover: No. Not yet.

Leahy: That’s in process. Where does this go from here?

Glover: I mean the same answer applies as it applied 10 minutes ago, court! I believe ultimately that’s where it needs to be decided. Here’s where I’d like for everyone to understand when they thought that Cooper caved. He did not cave. First of all, he got the section in between the racetrack and what will be the soccer stadium. He retained that for public use.

Leahy: So he kept some of the land that was originally…

Glover: The other side will argue that he didn’t keep any. I will tell you, yes, we did. Because now the original plan which was never the real plan that any of us actually saw but supposedly we all voted on it would have literally destroyed the racetrack. That has been said.

Leahy: OK. So he saved the racetrack.

Glover: Right. And he’s preserved land in between the racetrack and what will be the soccer stadium. And the reason that’s important is that in order for both the exist you needed that space.

Carmichael: And that was going to be multi-use.

Glover: Yes.

Carmichael: And so now the Mayor has gotten that back. For purpose of discussion, he’s gotten that back.

Glover: Right. And let’s call it 8C because that’s exactly what they’re calling it.

Leahy: There’s still a bunch of land because but he got some of the multi-use back.

Carmichael: What about the other pieces of the deal that the Mayor negotiated?

Glover: So we had a 35 million dollar bill that we were on the hook as taxpayers for supplementing this stadium for the first 9 or 10  years. I want to say it was 10 but don’t hold me on that one exactly. 35 million. That’s gone. So the taxpayers are no longer on the hook for that. 19 million in some infrastructure and overrun costs that the city just doesn’t have right now, that’s gone. So 54 million dollars.

Now that we can say right now taxpayers saved 54 million dollars just on those two components. But because we’ve removed those liabilities and some of the other pieces the overruns etc, I believe it will exceed over 100 million dollars that the taxpayers will save when all is said and done on the way that Mayor Cooper renegotiated the deal.

Leahy: But they’re still on the hook right?

Glover: Well we’re on the hook with revenue bonds, however, this is the piece that the ownership has had to do. When all is said, they would have had had the stadium and the revenue and everything else. We would have still been on the hook for it. The way the Mayor has the deal structured, and I’ve not yet seen i’s dotted and the t’s crossed on this one.  Remember, this all happened late last week. We haven’t had council. Today is a holiday. I’m not going to see it today.

But hopefully, by tomorrow, we’ll certainly have a much greater understanding. But the little bit of time I was able to talk to the Mayor Thursday morning, we couldn’t go through every aspect. I will say, given where we were under the Barry administration and given where we are with the Cooper administration, we’re much better off.  Now here is the thing. Mayor Cooper said this and I believe he’s said it to others so I don’t want to talk out of school.

The problem was when we passed that stupid thing, ownership seems to think that now they have the rights on the land and the stadium and everything else. Mayor Cooper felt that if we didn’t try to cut the best deal humanly possible right now, they would have filed suit against us. Who knows? You’re talking about 100’s and millions of dollars.

Leahy: And they have the resources to mount a huge legal battle. I think that is a consideration.

Listen to the third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.





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