Feud Over Nashville MLS Stadium Project Continues To Heat Up
The back-and-forth between Nashville Mayor John Cooper and Nashville SC Owner John Ingram over the MLS stadium project has intensified, as the expansion club said that "time has run out and the city must move forward," according to Yihyun Jeong of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. The club on Friday reiterated that they are "'out of time' and cannot hold up moving forward on the stadium because of a not-yet approved deal" with SMI and the city to renovate the Fairgrounds Speedway. SMI has pitched a $60M racetrack renovation project to "bring NASCAR to the fairgrounds." However, Nashville SC feels that the "placement of the 10-acre mixed-use development and a parking lot near the racetrack entrance is a problem." SMI said that the close proximity of the proposed facility to the existing structure "makes the flow in and out of the track nearly impossible and creates a potential public safety issue." Cooper "hasn't said where he stands on a deal" with SMI. Ingram and Nashville SC in a letter last week said that they "cannot completely remove about a third of the 10-acre development as part of the deal, as Cooper has requested," because of their "community benefits agreement with Stand Up Nashville." Cooper in a previous statement said he remains "fully supportive of the community benefits agreement." His office "declined to share any details regarding offers made" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 2/1).
DOING WHAT THEY CAN: Ingram in his letter said that he offered to take on $54M more in "potential expenses" for the stadium deal, but that Cooper "continued to stall." That came a day after Nashville SC and MLS in a joint statement said that "there was 'deep disappointment'" in Cooper's actions. The TENNESSEAN's Jeong noted offers made by Nashville SC include $19M for "infrastructure work related to the stadium and taking on all debt payments" for the now $335M stadium, including $35M the city "was on the hook for if ticket and sales tax revenue falls short." The team also has "offered to adjust design plans related to a 100-foot boundary of the 10-acre development to remove any barriers near the Nashville Speedway." Cooper said the latest offer represents $139M in "taxpayer savings -- a vast improvement for Nashville residents." But Cooper's figure includes the nearly $85M in "stadium overrun costs -- which the team had already committed to paying in the original deal" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 2/1).
MAKE AN EFFORT? Jeong noted Fair Board Commissioner Caleb Hemmer is asking Cooper to "start demolition at Fairgrounds Nashville" for the stadium as an "immediate and 'good-faith' effort to soccer officials after a 'very tense situation'" last week. Hemmer asked the mayor to "consider immediately signing demolition paperwork for the 'obsolete' expo buildings at the site, a needed move to make way for the soccer stadium." The old expo buildings are "no longer in use by the Fairgrounds and utilities have already been prepared for demolition." Hemmer said that doing so "would not only signal to Nashville SC and MLS officials that Cooper is moving toward a resolution, but also to Nashville residents" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 2/2).