Over the next six months, the Council will be asked to take positions on several important issues. Before these debates come to a head, I want to share my current thoughts about each of them. This post is about the potential soccer stadium. I have also posted separately about the possibility of a transit referendum and the commercial development proposed for Ft. Negley Park.
Here’s what I think I know (all based on second or third hand information I have heard):
- I think the proposal will be to build the stadium on the hill at the Fairgrounds where most of current buildings are. I think it will have one or two restaurants and build in some conference and office space (that would presumably be operated by the Fairgrounds Board??).
- I think the MLS bid team would like Vanderbilt to play its football games there. That implies a stadium with seating for at least 35,000 to 40,000. And the project cost amounts I hear range from $150 to 200 million. I hear that Vanderbilt hasn’t decided yet what to do, but I am not confident about that one way or another. If Vanderbilt declines, I assume the stadium will be smaller and I don’t know what that would do to the price.
Here’s what I don’t know:
- What is the total expected price tag? Does the stated price include any expected infrastructure, parks, greenways, or other improvements that might get folded into the project?
- How much will Metro pay?
- When there are overruns (like with the Sounds stadium and most large projects), who will pay for the overruns?
- What is the source of funding for the Metro part? In the budget process a few months ago, this project was listed to be supported with revenue bonds. In turn, this suggests using sales tax revenue from tickets and stadium concession sales to pay for Metro’s portion of the cost. The details will matter, but this revenue seems like it might not be enough to pay the cost of the debt. If not, what will the annual losses be, and how will we pay for that?
- How are nearby neighborhood groups going to interact with the stadium for parking and noise, especially for night games.
My position on Metro contributing to build a soccer stadium will depend largely on the economics of the deal.