NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In a letter sent to Nashville Mayor John Cooper, John Ingram of the Nashville SC ownership group revealed that the team offered to cover an additional $54 million in costs in regards to the MLS stadium in order to get a deal done, but it was still not accepted by the mayor.
Construction crews were originally slated to begin demolition of the old fairgrounds facilities to make way for the Major League Soccer stadium on October 1st of 2019, but now, four months later, no demolition has begun.
Mayor Cooper has held off on signing the demolition agreement, and has largely kept quiet for his reasons why.
On Thursday, Nashville SC and MLS released a joint statement, saying 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. The Mayor’s continued refusal to proceed is a deep disappointment to Nashville SC and MLS."
The statement continued, "Nashville SC has agreed to work with the Mayor’s office over the next week to advance the discussions and finalize a plan to begin the stadium construction project. We hope for a mutually agreeable solution and expect to have an update regarding the project by February 6."
On Friday, Ingram sent a letter to Mayor Cooper and all Metro council members which outlined the deal that was offered to Cooper, and the changes Nashville SC has been willing to make to get a deal.
The letter outlined that Nashville SC said the team was willing to pay an additional $19 million in infrastructure costs, was willing to waive Metro's commitment to pay up to $35 million to defray the team's stadium lease payment obligation if ticket and sales tax collections were not sufficient, and the team was willing to adjust their plans to accommodate potential changes at the Fairgrounds Speedway.
The letter also outlined that the team planned to cover the difference in the cost for the stadium, which has increased from $250 million to an estimated $335 million, which the team was planning to cover all along.
Ingram went on to say, "Our offer clearly addresses any assertion that the soccer stadium and mixed-use development will take away from teacher pay. It will not. In fact, it will add millions in recurring revenue to the Metro general fund to be used for that very purpose if you wish."
Ingram ended the letter by writing, "We intend to honor our commitments to the community. Nashville needs to keep its commitments. We hope this will help us reach a solution to allow stadium construction to begin immediately."
Council member Colby Sledge, who represents the Fairgrounds Nashville, said he's been hearing from a lot of concerned citizens who want the soccer stadium deal to move forward.
“I think there’s an expectation that when you say you’re going to do something, you do it," Sledge said. "We as a council, we had a very open, public process, taking into account everybody’s comments, and then tried to move forward with the best plan possible, and I think now there’s an expectation that should be fulfilled.”
Sledge said he hasn't heard from the mayor about the project, but he does understand where the mayor is coming from. Still, he said he believes the deal on the table is one that the city should accept.
“I understand that if you’re a new mayor, new administration, that you want to come in and make sure that everything is going to make sense and be the best for the city," Sledge explained. "I think the time for that has come to an end, and I think this deal today that has been offered is the perfect quite frankly resolution to that process.”
Cooper issued a response to the letter where he mentioned that through these negotiations, Nashville taxpayers have been the winners, saving millions of dollars.
While he was generally positive in the letter about the financial negotiations, he stated that he was held up on the deal due to a single parcel of land between the approved MLS stadium and the Fairgrounds Speedway.
“One of the important components of the unified site plan at the Fairgrounds is Parcel 8c. The public space that links two 30,000-seat stadiums has the potential to become one of the most important in Nashville. Careful design and execution is essential to make the site work for two large public venues - supporting circulation, security, staging and access. Given the long-term significance of the Fairgrounds for our community, this space deserves thoughtful analysis that meets the highest standards for urban design. Nashville deserves a carefully planned multi-functional space, as opposed to a parking structure that looms over the speedway. This approach would enhance the quality of the Fairgrounds experience for everyone and showcase the unique function of this place for all its users.
Cooper ended his letter saying, "As we discussed earlier this week, I look forward to continuing our discussions to make the historic Fairgrounds a site that works for all of Nashville, including professional soccer.”