Mayor John Cooper pens op-ed amid soccer stadium standoff

Posted at 9:04 PM, Feb 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 07:34:22-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After 11 days of letters, responses and even court motions, Nashville Mayor John Cooper wrote an op-ed in The Tennessean addressing the delays and negotiations surrounding the planned Major League Soccer stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds.

In the op-ed, Cooper wrote, "I’m committed to making soccer a success. I’m honoring Metro’s commitment to build a stadium," but said he was also focused on creating a lane for improvements at the Fairground's racetrack. Having racing at the Fairgrounds in mandated in the Metro charter.

Cooper discussed the ongoing negotiations with Nashville Soccer Holdings, the owners of Nashville SC, and his concerns about the stadium's cost. The mayor confirmed the team agreed to pay an extra $54 million, including $19 million in infrastructure improvements.

Cooper also addressed "Parcel 8C," a 2.4 acre area between the racetrack and where the stadium is planned to go. Cooper wants the area turned into a plaza that can be shared by both sites, but Nashville SC has argued the area is critical to their Community Benefits Agreement.

The op-ed is the latest piece of a weeks-long, public discussion between Cooper and Nashville SC. It started in late January, when the team's owners and MLS leadership released a statement expressing disappointment that construction on the stadium had not begun.

The statement read, in part, "...the Mayor today refused to commit to move forward with the demolition and the approved stadium plan. During today’s meeting, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made it clear to Mayor Cooper that Major League Soccer would not have awarded Nashville an expansion team without the commitment made by the city to build a soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds." Demolition at the Fairgrounds was scheduled to begin in October, 2019.

A week of back-and-forth followed the statement, culminating in Nashville Soccer Holdings filing a court motion and giving metro leaders a new deadline.

Cooper has denied several interview requests from NewsChannel 5 regarding the planned Nashville SC stadium.

"I thought we had already kind of settled the matter," Metro Council Member Freddie O'Connell said with a laugh. O'Connell voted to build the soccer stadium back in 2018.

O'Connell said Cooper's op-ed highlights progress in the stadium standstill.

"I don't think anybody should object to successful fights on behalf of taxpayers to get the best possible deal," O'Connell said, but he added that he has concerns about the process.

"There hasn't been any clear communication of goals or priorities, just a lot of confusion," he said. "I don't want to spend this year fighting over a specific little element of the Fairground site in court, in letters, I just want to move forward with the best deal we can get...sometimes decided matters are decided."