Nashville SC and Nashville mayor John Cooper have reached an agreement on the team’s new stadium, ending an impasse that had stalled the project.
Over the last few months, Nashville SC and Cooper were locked into an impasse over the team’s future stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville, a project previously approved by city officials as part of an agreement that includes 10 acres of development on an adjacent site. 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–held off on approving demolition work and entered into negotiations with Speedway Motorsports over a proposal to bring NASCAR racing to the Nashville Speedway at the Fairgrounds as part of a $60-million renovation.
Nashville SC had been increasing the public pressure on Cooper to finalize an agreement in recent weeks, including the launch of a website and online petition Sunday. The two sides are now moving forward with the stadium project, however, after coming to terms on an agreement that was announced Thursday. Under the terms of that deal, Nashville SC ownership will up contribute an estimated $19 million toward infrastructure and assume Nashville Metro’s obligation to pay up to $35 million toward lease payments. Additionally, the parcel of land closest to the racetrack–which had become a sticking point in the discussions–will remain in the development component of the project, with the two sides mutually agreeing to a general statement of principals on designing the space. Nashville, meanwhile, will immediately proceed with the demolition process. Those terms, as explained in Thursday’s announcement:
- The Team will pay for infrastructure in the immediate vicinity of the stadium estimated to be $19 million.
- The team will assume metro’s obligation to pay up to $35 Million toward lease payments.
- The Team has agreed to a general statement of principles for parcel 8C in the 10 acre mixed-use development to account for an open plaza that can serve the operational needs of multiple Fairgrounds uses.
- Metro has authorized initiation of the demolition contract and will proceed with the demolition process immediately.
“We are very happy to be moving forward with the stadium construction,” Nashville SC majority owner John Ingram said in a press statement. “The investment we are making is not just for our soccer team, it is an investment in the future of Nashville and the Fairgrounds.”
“I’m so glad we’ve reached a better deal for Nashville. I’m grateful to Nashville Soccer Holdings and John Ingram for understanding our city’s financial realities and agreeing to pay up to $54 million in additional costs,” Mayor Cooper said in a press statement. “This deal saves the taxpayers money and provides a better site plan for the Fairgrounds. Today is an exciting step forward for sports in Nashville and I’m ready for the first Nashville SC game on February 29th.”
With the agreement in place, demolition work will get underway to accommodate the stadium project, currently estimated at $335 million. The announcement of a deal comes after a period of increased pressure over the last few days to finalize an agreement. More from The Tennessean:
The city will issue $225 million in bonds for the stadium and pay $25 million for stadium-related infrastructure as part of the original deal. The team will pay for all overrun costs on the stadium, which is now estimated to cost $335 million in total….
The pressure to reach an agreement grew this week after Cooper met with Gov. Bill Lee and racing executives on Tuesday, ahead of MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s visit to Nashville on Thursday morning for an event later tonight with Ingram and the team’s chief executive Ian Ayre.
Talks between Cooper and Ingram geared up Wednesday after the mayor met with state and racing officials, along with Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. President Butch Spyridon.
The new deal changes the tone of tonight’s event as soccer officials were likely to discuss the team’s efforts to move forward with its stadium plan before a March 31 construction start deadline set by Nashville Soccer Holdings, the majority ownership entity of Nashville SC.
It should be noted that there is an ongoing lawsuit over the stadium, as the coalition Save Our Fairgrounds has sued the city in an effort to stop the project, contending that it would interfere with existing uses at the complex. Work on the project will begin before the lawsuit plays out, however, as there will be a hearing on February 21 to select a date to begin the trial. Nashville SC ownership took the step last week of filing a motion to intervene in a lawsuit.
Nashville SC will begin MLS play as an expansion team on February 29, with home matches to be played at Nissan Stadium as a stopgap solution until the new stadium is completed.
Rendering courtesy Nashville SC.
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