Nashville MLS Stadium Agreements Push Toward Approval

Nashville MLS stadium rendering

Officials are pushing to finalize agreements for a new Nashville MLS stadium by early September, with the deals pivotal to moving the project forward. 

Nashville was awarded an MLS expansion team late last year, with its bid led by John Ingram calling for a new soccer-specific stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The Nashville Metro Council approved $225 million in bonding for the proposed stadium last fall, but the bonds will not be finalized until several agreements relating to the project move forward.

The administration of mayor David Briley and the club have come to preliminary terms on several agreements, and are pushing to have final approval by September 4. That will require actions from multiple bodies, including the Nashville Metro Council, Metro Board of Fair Commissioners, and the Sports Authority. Briley’s administration will file three ordinances with the council, including one for a ticket tax and demolition of existing buildings on the site, another for rezoning to accommodate an adjacent 10-acre mixed-use development (also requiring a planning commission vote), and a ground lease for that development (also requiring fair board action). The resolution, meanwhile, would call for $50 million in general obligation bonds, including $25 million for infrastructure improvements and $25 million for building reconstruction.

Agreements such as a grounds lease for the site and the stadium lease are also in need of final approval, making the coming weeks crucial to the project. More from the Tennessean:

In all, four pieces of legislation need approval in the council — in addition to multiple actions by other Metro boards and commissions — to allow revenue bonds for the stadium to be issued this fall and the project to move forward.

Rejection of any one would likely halt the project. That also includes separate votes to re-zone the fairgrounds property and lease 10 acres for private development….

Some fairgrounds advocates, including a couple in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, continue to criticize the proposed stadium location. But the deal itself has gotten high marks from the sports authority.

“I think it protects Metro in ways we didn’t see in previous (stadium) agreements,” sports authority member Margaret Behm said.

Among its actions, the sports authority needs to secure a ground lease with the fair board for the Fairgrounds site, complete a final stadium lease with the team, and approve construction administration and construction management agreements.

Under the funding model unveiled last year, Nashville Metro would issue up to $225 million in revenue bonds for the construction of the stadium. The MLS group led by Ingram would commit a $25-million cash payment, and pay $9 million annually to the Metro Sports Authority over a 30-year lease. That would cover some of Metro’s expected $13 million in yearly debt on the stadium, with the remaining $4 million covered by sales tax revenue generated by the facility and a tax that would be added to every ticket that was sold. That tax would start at $1.75 before increasing after five years.

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