Cooper announces plan to build new Titans stadium without burdening taxpayers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Nashville Mayor John Cooper unveiled the plan to help fund a new stadium for the Tennessee Titans without a taxpayer burden for Davidson County residents.
The mayor said in an opinion column published on The Tennessean’s website the city is currently required to provide a “first-class” stadium until 2038, an obligation that means either renovating the current stadium or building a new stadium.
Cooper said he has worked together with the Titans and state partners for the past 18 months to explore all stadium options that make financial sense, provide benefits to the community and keep the Titans in Tennessee for generations to come.
The city is currently on the hook for millions of dollars per year for stadium maintenance and improvement according to the current lease.
He said, “doing nothing means continuing to burden the Metro General Fund – an unacceptable status quo that will cost Nashville hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Cooper said that through collaboration with the Titans and state government, the new stadium solution will not burden the General Fund.
The state approved $500 million in revenue bonds during the budget process last month to go toward raising funds for a new stadium, which may cost nearly $2 billion. The legislature also approved legislation that would allow the hotel-motel tax to be raised 1% in Davidson County.
“To finance construction of a new enclosed stadium, the state committed $500 million and passed legislation allowing an increase in the hotel-motel tax, which the hospitality industry supports,” Cooper wrote in the opinion column.
“In the event of construction overruns, I have asked that they be covered by the Titans. I will not sell public land, raise the sales tax, or spend your property tax dollars to fund the stadium.”
“The Titans share Mayor Cooper’s commitment to collaboration and partnership as we try to craft the best and most responsible solution for the stadium’s long-term future. We look forward to continuing an open and constructive dialogue with the Administration, Council and the residents of Nashville as we determine how the stadium can best serve our community for years to come.”
The new stadium would be built on land next to the current Nissan Stadium.
The Titans confirmed last week Manica Architecture had been selected for the initial design for the new stadium.
“As a city, we are in a different place today than we were 26 years ago. Nashville voters made a smart beet by approving $144 million in sports authority bonds and general obligation bonds to build a stadium,” Cooper wrote. “Both Nashville and the entire state have benefited tremendously from having the Titans here, and now, we have the opportunity to expand those benefits by getting the city out of the stadium maintenance business.”
Cooper explained in the column that the city and team initially pursued renovations to Nissan Stadium at a cost estimated at $600 million. After factoring in rising interest rates, inflation, deferred maintenance and aging infrastructure, the cost increased to more than $1 billion.
“We are working on plans for a new stadium because doing nothing is not an option, and renovating the current stadium would be financially irresponsible,” Cooper wrote. “Some of the stadium’s most basic infrastructure is nearing the end of its usable life.
“Rather than pouring over a billion dollars into an aging stadium, we began working with the Titans and the state on the idea of building a new enclosed stadium for Nashville.”
Cooper listed his commitments to the Nashville taxpayers as part of the final stadium proposal.
- Under no circumstances will property tax or sales tax increase pay for stadium construction or future stadium maintenance or renovations
- The primary funding source for stadium construction will be the Titans and visitors to Nashville and the stadium campus. Taxpayers will be protected in the event of construction overruns.
- The Titans will take on the financial responsibility of maintaining the stadium, removing Metro’s General Fund as the financial backstop.
- Any new agreement will result in the Titans staying in Nashville for the long-term.
- Metro will not sell any of the land that it owns on the East Bank in order to finance the stadium.
- Metro will work with the Titans to secure high-paying jobs, meaningful minority contractor participation, parks and greenspace, affordable housing, and a welcoming environment for Nashville residents that incorporates the stadium into the community vision for the surrounding neighborhood.
Cooper has emphasized in several interviews that the city is not in the business of building sports stadiums and that he didn’t want to burden taxpayers for a new stadium.
“We’re not in the stadium business. We’re in the educating kids business, we’re in a safer street and road business,” Cooper said in an interview in March. “The Titans have been a very good partner for Nashville and it’s fun to have them, but fundamentally, the city is not in the entertainment or stadium business itself.”
Metro Councilmember At-Large Sharon Hurt applauded Cooper’s efforts to keep the funding of the stadium off the back of Metro taxpayers.
“As an At-Large Council member, I have not always agreed with Mayor Cooper and his priorities, and frankly that is not likely to change. While this project will, of course, require a great deal of review and explanation, I am first and foremost a Nashvillian and thus I say Amen, when Amen is earned. I applaud the Mayor for his and his Administration for their work so far and support his ‘commitments’ to the City wholeheartedly.”
“As an At-Large Council member, I have not always agreed with Mayor Cooper and his priorities, and frankly that is not likely to change. While this project will, of course, require a great deal of review and explanation, I am first and foremost a Nashvillian and thus I say Amen, when Amen is earned,” Hurt said in a statement. “I applaud the Mayor for his and his Administration for their work so far and support his ‘commitments’ to the City wholeheartedly.”
“This is a challenging and exciting moment for our city,” Cooper wrote in closing his opinion column. “The Titans and Governor Lee, along with his colleagues at the state level, have been great partners throughout this process, and I am committed to securing the Titans future in Nashville in a way that protects taxpayers.”
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