NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In one of the first of many steps, Metro Council members decided to move forward with a piece of the decision to build a new, enclosed stadium for the Tennessee Titans.
Council members voted 27-8-3 on the term sheet.
While some council members made impassioned speeches about their reasoning behind amendments and the vote, others stayed mute when it came to the term sheet, which is the major points negotiated between the team and Metro. It's non-binding but does allow the city and the Titans to move forward with the stadium deal talks in the new year.
"For several years now, we have been searching for a responsible and sustainable solution to a growing, unfunded taxpayer liability," the Titans organization said in a statement after the vote. "We're thankful for Council's support in bringing us one step closer to removing taxpayer risk from the stadium forever while creating a long-lasting, transformational stadium that both entertains and serves its community year-round. We look forward to continuing conversations with the City, Metro Council, Sports Authority, and community as we complete discussions in the new year."
At a meeting in early December, sports authority members approved a $2.1 billion term sheet.
"This isn't the final approval of the stadium. This is the basis of negotiation — the existing lease, TSU, the development agreement, a non-relocation agreement, state funding agreements, campus coordination and parking agreements," councilman Brent Withers said.
The new Titans stadium proposal has been on the minds of Nashvillians for nearly a year after the organization announced needed repairs to the current Nissan Stadium on the East Bank. Of the money needed for the stadium, a one-time $500 million bond from the state legislature will contribute. Personal seat licensures will also add money to the pot along with the Titans organization.
Mayor John Cooper — who rarely makes statements or appearances after council votes — stepped forward Tuesday night with this compliments to council for moving the deal.
"I am grateful to Metro Council for their careful consideration of this deal, and ultimate vote of confidence," Cooper said. "In particular, I’d like to thank the East Bank Committee for their hard work and scrupulous review of the proposal. I am proud of the transparency and robust community engagement throughout this process which included over 30 separate Council and neighborhood meetings, and answers to over 100 detailed questions submitted to my office by Council Members. I am pleased that after a thorough review of the plan, a strong majority agree this deal is a win for Nashville taxpayers. As we move toward the end of negotiations with the Titans, I remain deeply committed to putting Nashville taxpayers first, and I will not compromise on our core principles. This deal is about way more than football. It’s about what is best for Nashville’s financial future.”
But not every council member saw it that way.
"This is just idiotic. The Titans aren't acting in good faith," councilwoman Ginny Welsch said. "They haven't exercised the option on their lease. I think this is an aggressive move toward Metro. There's no urgency to this. We shouldn't walk off a cliff just because the administration wants us to."
According to the renderings, the stadium would cover 1.7 million square feet with a 60,000 capacity. The architecture is expected to give special attention to a multi-purpose function and allow the city to maximize the number and different types of events that can take place in the new building.
"What about my district? We need to take more time, flesh this out a little more. My district is being ignored by this administration," councilman Russ Bradford said.
Ten amendments were pitched before the council.
Council member Bob Mendes' amendment asked the state to amend the bond money given to Metro Nashville. He asked for $50 million to go back to the Department of Children's Services. That would amend the total to $450 million. Mendes wanted to redirect a general obligation bond back to the state, which would take months to do. It would have also an effect on the stadium's overall approval by a few months. It failed 10-28.
"It's a human dignity issue. It's a moral issue," Mendes said.
Council also approved 1% raise of the hotel/motel tax. The tax would fund a piece of the stadium, with some saying the burden would sit with tourists versus everyday taxpayers. This bill was on third reading, meaning this was its final passage.
"This is a tax on the industry itself is for because it's for a better Nashville," Cooper said.
Amendments passed with the term sheet vote:
- An amendment added that to the fullest extent allowable by law, the agreement would use minority or women-owned business enterprises.
- An amendment that would make it non-binding.
- An amendment that Nashville and the Titans would consider lease terms together.
- An amendment that would handle budget shortfalls that Metro would be reimbursed for whatever it put forward.
- An amendment that all revenues generated by the new stadium be considered by the parties involved figure out a way to get it back to the general fund. Additionally, it would ask for a final term sheet should arrive on the council's desk 10 days after both parties agree on the final document.
- A fund — dubbed the Nashville Needs Impact Fund — would be established between Metro and the Titans through the sharing of naming rights of the stadium. The Titans supported the amendment, according to an email Metro officials read during the meeting.