Metro Council Approves Ballpark Legislation On Second Reading - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Metro Council Approves Ballpark Legislation On Second Reading

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by Chris Cannon

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Members of Metro Council overwhelmingly approved several pieces of legislation that will make it possible to build a new Nashville Sounds baseball stadium.

That legislation came up for a second reading and public hearing Tuesday night. About 20 people came out to speak in favor of the ballpark, only three people spoke in opposition.

The legislation that was voted on for a second time dealt with financing the project with bonds, and acquiring land needed for the ballpark from the State of Tennessee. 

There was a debate over an amendment that dealt with the Nashville Sounds and the organization's obligation to build a separate development around the Metro-built stadium.

Metro has factored in tax revenue from that private development as a key portion of the money needed to pay down bonds associated with the project. Councilman Charlie Tygard worried if the Sounds organization fails to build that project, taxpayers would be left holding the bill. He wanted assurances the Sounds would still pay, even if the development falls through.

"This isn't anything personal, this is a chance, as people have said, to get questions answered on the front end, so there aren't delays on the back end," Tygard said.

Many council members said that request was unprecedented. Erica Gilmore is the council member for the district where the stadium would be built. She became frustrated over the amendment many people said would stop the entire deal.

"I have never stood up on big projects and talked about fiduciary responsibility, taxpayer money. We've trusted it in the past, and now we have a question with it. So, I'm going to sit down because I can't see straight right now, and I don't know why I can't," Gilmore said.

In the end, council members voted 28 to seven to approve the issuance of bonds for the project, and 33 to one to approve the needed land acquisitions for the ballpark.

After the meeting, Nashville Sounds owner Frank Ward talked about the debate over his organization coming through on the private development part of the contract.

"I've always prided myself on, when I give my word, in 40 years, I've kept my word. And that's what I'll say on that issue," Ward said.

A Metro Council meeting has been specially called for on December 10, so this legislation can have its third and final reading.

"The state's already given their approval to the agreement. We then finalize the bond sale, we finalize the land conveyance that's been approved, and sometime early next year we start moving dirt," said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebling.

Late Tuesday night, Mayor Karl Dean issued a statement about the council vote.

"This investment north of downtown returns baseball to its historic home in Sulphur Dell and will spur further redevelopment of the Jefferson Street area, and that's great for our entire city. Tonight's vote moved the project one step closer to reality," Dean said.

Barring any last minute problems that would delay a set timeline, the Nashville Sounds should start playing in the new stadium in April of 2015.


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