Bills to Shift Nashville Airport, Sports Authority Power from City to State Proceed

by Jon Styf


A pair of bills to change the way two Nashville boards are chosen advanced in committee Wednesday.

The Senate Government Operations Committee recommended bills to change the way the Nashville’s Metropolitan Sports Authority and the Metropolitan Airport Authority are selected from local selections to selections from Tennessee government, including the governor, lieutenant governor and house speaker.

The sports authority bill, which would only impact Nashville, passed both the Senate committee and the House Cities & Counties Subcommittee, where Nashville Sports Authority Executive Director Monica Fawknotson opposed the bill.

Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, said the reason for the House Bill 1197 was  the state was putting $500 million toward a new $2.1 billion Tennessee Titans stadium and the state then has a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the stadium.

Currently, Nashville’s mayor appoints the 13 sports authority members but the new plan would allow the mayor to appoint three members with 10 appointed by state leaders.

Williams said that state currently doesn’t have a seat at that table. Fawknotson, however, argued the sports authority is paid for by Metro Nashville and the city backstops sports stadium bonds taken out by the sports authority and therefore should retain control.

In discussions regarding the new Titans stadium and a slate of Tennessee Legislature bills, East Bank Stadium Committee Chair Bob Mendes recently said the city should make sure it retains control of the sports authority before committing to the debt on a new stadium.

Especially, Mendes said, after the state has a bill threatening to stop the tax captures set to pay off bonds for the Music City Center in Nashville.

In Senate committee, Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, said it is clear in airport budget meetings the state is the primary funding source for the state’s airports and it should be responsible for the board at the state’s largest airport.

“I would entertain an amendment to include all airports,” Bailey said when asked by Sen. Charlane Oliver, D-Nashville, why the bill only applies to Nashville’s board.

But when Oliver proposed an amendment to include all airports later, Bailey called the amendment hostile to the bill and asked it be properly and timely filed before the bill reached the Senate Transportation Committee.

Oliver said she believed similar moves in other states had led to conflict with the Federal Aviation Administration as oversight of boards of airports with projects already planned and under construction shifted from local to state authority.

But Bailey said he believed the Senate Bill 1326 had received plenty of press and no one from the FAA has objected to it.

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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter of The Center Square who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.
Photo “Ryan Williams” by Jay.Klein. CC BY-SA 4.0.



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One Thought to “Bills to Shift Nashville Airport, Sports Authority Power from City to State Proceed”

  1. Joe Blow

    The stupid part of this whole thing is the state putting up $500,000 of state taxpayer money for such a boondoggle. Now that was so stupid that I would have thought even state reps and senators would be bright enough reject the whole thing. Just go to show all of us that they are not conservative at all.