Soccer Proposal Thoughts

I’ve heard from many constituents regarding the soccer stadium proposal and want to let all who are interested know what my thinking is right now, 48 hours from an expected vote.

First, for those who haven’t been following the issue, there is currently a proposal before the Metro Council to build a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium on the grounds of The Fairgrounds Nashville and to rent land to the team to build a ten-acre mixed use development next door. The city would be responsible for $25 million in bonds for infrastructure costs and $25 million in bonds for fairgrounds improvements. The team would pay $25 million in stadium construction costs and the rest would be paid for by bonds paid off by stadium revenue.

There are issues where I don’t feel strongly one way or the other and issues where I feel strongly in one direction or the other. This is the other kind of issue: where I feel I could make a compelling argument on each side. The short version: I remain undecided.

Where We’ve Been

Last November, the Metro Council voted 31-6 to approve $225 million in revenue bonds for, contingent on future approvals. I was one of the six “no” votes, mainly due to my opposition to practically giving away ten acres of prime real estate to billionaires. I spoke against the deal and also pledged to help the project succeed if it was approved.

In December, Nashville was awarded an MLS expansion franchise, contingent on construction of the stadium.

This year, we’ve seen quite a bit happen, including modifications to the deal, a terrible budget situation, and revelations regarding various facets of the deal’s development and details. We’ve had preliminary votes on several resolutions and ordinances; I’ve abstained all of them because I didn’t have enough information to vote “yes” but didn’t want to stifle debate by voting “no.”

Where We Are

Final votes are scheduled for Tuesday on several pieces of legislation related to the proposal:

  • A resolution calling a citywide referendum on the proposal, to be added to the November 6 ballot
    Reference: RS2018-1373 Text and Legal Analysis
    Approval Threshold: Requires more “yes” votes than “no” votes
  • An ordinance calling for the demolition of buildings necessary to build the stadium and imposing a tax on tickets for events at the stadium
    Reference: BL2018-1289 Text and Legal Analysis
    Approval Threshold: Requires 27 votes out of 39 members
  • An ordinance calling for the rezoning of ten acres of Fairgrounds land for a mixed use development
    Reference: BL2018-1890 Text and Legal Analysis
    Approval Threshold: Requires 21 votes out of 39 members
  • An ordinance approving the ground lease for the ten acres
    Reference: BL2018-1291 Text and Legal Analysis
    Approval Threshold: Requires 21 votes out of 39 members

What I’m Thinking

Things I Like

  • I support construction of a soccer stadium in Nashville and believe the Fairgrounds is a good location.
  • I understand that adjacent amenities as contemplated for the ten acres are necessary to the success of the stadium.
  • It’s questionable to advocate for large capital projects in my part of town and oppose it in other parts of town.
  • I like introducing the Fairgrounds to more Nashvillians.
  • I like the idea of a community benefits agreement.
  • I’ve heard from many passionate constituents who support this project.

Things I Don’t Like

  • I’m concerned about our budgetary situation and what this will cost us.
  • I’m concerned about whether we’re getting fair market value for the ten acres.
  • I’m concerned that a capital project like this could be at the expense of needed capital projects like schools.
  • I’m concerned that existing uses will not be fully protected as required under a 2011 Charter amendment.
  • I’m concerned a community benefits agreement will be immediately invalidated by the state legislature.
  • I’ve heard from many passionate constituents who oppose this project.