Nashville fair board members are calling on mayor John Cooper to move forward with a new Nashville SC stadium, hoping to see an end to the impasse in planning the project.
Nashville SC, whose ownership group is led by Nashville businessman John Ingram, remains at an impasse with Cooper over planning for the MLS squad’s future stadium at The Faigrounds Nashville. The stadium project includes plans for a 10-acre mixed-use development on an adjacent site, part of an agreement previously approved by city officials. Under the original agreement, preparation of the project site, including demolition of old, unused buildings at Fairgrounds Nashville, should have been well underway by now. However, Cooper–who assumed office four months ago–has not signed off on the demolition work and has begun negotiations with a group seeking to bring NASCAR racing to Nashville Speedway at the Fairgrounds. The cost of the Nashville Speedway renovations, as proposed by Speedway Motorsports, is $60 million—and Speedway Motorsports wants to see the 10-acre development scaled back by about a third, in order to provide unimpeded access to the racetrack.
At a Tuesday meeting, the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners voted unanimously to send Cooper a formal letter that calls on him to begin demolition of the unused buildings and move forward with the stadium project. The board is also urging Cooper to “decouple” discussions about potential Speedway renovations from the stadium project, pointing to the uncertainty surrounding negotiations over an idea that is far from a public vote, much less a public discussion. More from The Tennessean:
“We’ve got to get this done,” Fair Board Commissioner Jason Bergeron said. “We went through a very public MLS process, the council approved it and the (fair board) approved it multiple times.”
The deal, he said, should not be stalled for a deal the city has not yet made with Speedway Motorsports, a group that has made a $60 million pitch to renovate the speedway to bring NASCAR back to Nashville.
“We need to decouple any notion of racing from this right now … that process hasn’t even started because (Speedway Motorsports) has failed to engage,” Bergeron said.
Cooper’s spokesperson Chris Song said negotiations with Nashville SC’s ownership group is “progressing well,” and that the administration looks forward to announcing an agreement soon.
Nashville SC launched a public campaign on Sunday urging Cooper to move forward with the project, including a website and an online petition. The club’s has upped its financial offer by $54 million to cover cost concerns related to the delays, but team ownership has expressed concerns about the potential to scale back the development component of the project. Nashville SC has a community benefits agreement (CBA) with Stand Up Nashville, which calls for specific elements such as affordable housing and child-care services—and Ingram contends that those terms could not be met without the 10-acre development.
Nashville SC begins its inaugural MLS season this month as an expansion team, playing home matches at Nissan Stadium.
Rendering courtesy Nashville SC.
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