Metro Council approves funding plan for new Titans stadium

Council also approves creation of Nashville Needs Impact Fund.
Now that funding for the new stadium has been approved, Ryan Breslin covers the details of the plan moving forward.
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 6:25 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2023 at 9:33 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - After a public hearing that lasted more than five hours, the Metro Council voted early Wednesday morning to approve the funding plan to build a new football stadium for the Tennessee Titans.

The Council voted 26-12 on the third and final reading of the term sheet negotiated by Mayor John Cooper and the Tennessee Titans for the proposed $2.1 billion stadium.

Council members attempted to add seven amendments to the bill during the third reading, which required the Council to suspend the rules. Those amendments were not allowed to be heard after more than two council members opposed suspending the rules.

According to the team and mayor’s office, the stadium agreement includes a new 30-year lease and non-relocation agreement between the Titans and the Sports Authority. The terms of the new agreement remove the current obligation of Nashville’s General Fund to maintain and upgrade the stadium and return 66 acres of land to the City of Nashville, previously restricted by parking lots through 2039.

The city has announced plans to include the returned property in the creation of a new neighborhood set along Nashville’s Cumberland River. The neighborhood, through new revenue sources generated by its development, is projected to bring in over a billion dollars to Nashville’s General Fund over its first 30 years of development.

The team will also contribute nearly $48 million over the life of the lease to the Nashville Needs Impact Fund, a fund directed by the Metro Council to support city needs such as public education, public transit, affordable housing, and several other areas.

“Tonight is a huge win for Nashville taxpayers,” said Nashville Mayor John Cooper in a statement. “We’ve eliminated a billion-dollar liability created by an aging stadium lease and created a platform for the city to thrive for decades. This was always about more than football. This vote unlocks the East Bank Vision for Nashville’s next generation. It enables a true smart growth plan for the decades ahead. It will expand our transit network, create affordable housing, build parks and civic space, activate the waterfront, and drive resilience and sustainability.

Groundbreaking is expected to occur in early, to mid-2024, with an opening anticipated in 2027.

Metro Council held a public hearing on Tuesday prior to a vote on the plan to fund a new football stadium.

The Council began the meeting with a public hearing on the stadium plan, which continued until after 10 p.m. After the public hearing originally ended, Council member Freddie O’Connell made a motion to extend the public hearing, which was approved by a 27-10 vote. The public hearing then continued to just before 11:45 p.m.

A lot of people showed up to speak at the public hearing to speak out against the new stadium deal for the Tennessee Titans. The public hearing was originally set to be two hours for those in support of the stadium and two hours for those against the stadium.

Those in favor of the stadium deal finished speaking in just over an hour before those against the stadium took the podium for the full two hours. Each speaker had two minutes to make their point.

Proponents of the new stadium were made up of several business owners, community organizations, leaders, and hospitality members. Their reasons for supporting the stadium were mostly based on the incredible economic impact. Others mentioned how a new state-of-the-art stadium could bring big sporting events like the Super Bowl or NCAA basketball championships.

Those who oppose the stadium deal say the funding should go toward school, transit, and small business initiatives. They also talked about how the deal was moving too fast and should be a well-thought-out plan that is better than the last stadium deal.

“These speakers have one thing in common, like the hundreds of folks who work with me at our practice field, and in our stadium on game days,” Adolpho Burch, Chief External Legal Affairs Officer for the Tennessee Titans, said. “They care about the future of Nashville and the people who live here, and they understand that tonight’s vote is a unique opportunity to propel this city forward in a way that we can be proud of for generations.”

“Here are the challenges we face. We have a housing crisis, we have a transportation crisis, we have an income inequity crisis,” Jason Freeman said in opposition to the stadium.

The first person to speak at the public hearing was Tennessee State University football coach and former Titans running back Eddie George.

“What city gets the opportunity to build something this amazing from scratch?” George said. “That’s built for the people of this city. To end this, I’ve been here for over 25 years now and I believe that Nashville’s best days are ahead of us. This project is exactly what our city needs right now, and I appreciate your support of it.”

TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover spoke about the partnership the university has with the Titans to play at the stadium.

TSU would get to host games at the new stadium, similar to what is currently in place at Nissan Stadium, and they wouldn’t have to pay rent at the new stadium. Glover said during the hearing that TSU currently pays $200,000 to play at Nissan Stadium.

According to the term sheet agreed upon by Cooper and the Titans, the team and NFL would pay $840 million into the fund for the stadium and the state would contribute $500 million. Another $760 million would be from bonds funded by an additional 1% hotel-motel tax.

Everyone involved has said that none of the money from Metro Nashville would come from the general fund that is funded by property taxes.