Nashville Could Commission $200K Study On Titan’s Stadium Lease Obligations

Image Credit: Walker Kinsler / CC

The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –

Nashville will consider spending $200,000 on a “stadium study” to evaluate the Tennessee Titans’ claim that the city would owe $1.839 billion under the terms of the team’s current lease if Nissan Stadium in Nashville was renovated instead of having a new estimated $2.2 billion stadium built.

The line item called “study of Nissan Stadium obligations” appeared on a revised city budget from Metro Nashville Budget and Finance Chair Burkley Allen. The amendments will be discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Councilmember Sean Parker pushed the study, according to the Nashville Business Journal, on a project that is expected to include $1.5 billion in public funding.

Mayor John Cooper’s office previously said that a study wasn’t needed but provided a statement for the Nashville Business Journal.

“As we have previously said, we don’t need a study to know Nashville taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars out of the general fund over the course of the stadium lease signed in the late 1990s,” Cooper spokesperson TJ Ducklo said. “But as we continue our due diligence on the Titans’ cost estimates, and after hearing from Councilmember Sean Parker, we believe it’s appropriate to initiate our own analysis of Nashville taxpayers’ obligations under the current lease in the event we do not move forward with a new stadium.

“As that process advances, we’ll have more to share about what the final analysis looks like.”

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After a previous meeting of the Metro Nashville Sports Authority’s Finance Committee where Titans CEO Burke Nihill presented the $1.839 billion estimate, Ducklo stated that a study on the costs wasn’t necessary.

“We have no plans to commission another study to tell us what we already know: Renovating the stadium would cost Nashvillians hundreds of millions of dollars,” Ducklo said.

Nihill said that he prepared the Nashville-paid renovation estimate “in as objective a way as possible” figuring in $945 million for near-term stadium renovations and $894 million for maintenance and upgrades between 2026 and 2039 if the Titans were to use their option to renew the Nissan Stadium lease.

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Funding for a new domed stadium would include $500 million from the state of Tennessee along with Nashville’s portion of taxes for sales at the stadium and half of the taxes from sales on 130 acres planned to be developed outside the stadium. Tennessee has conceded a 5.5% sales tax at the stadium and 2.75% sales talks in the future development outside the stadium while also approving a 1 percentage point increase in a hotel-motel tax in Davidson County.

Team ownership and an NFL loan are expected to pay $700 million toward the stadium and will be responsible for any construction overages.

“I ran as a challenger and unseated the incumbent in 2015,” Councilmember Brett Withers tweeted on Thursday. “Since that time the Titans have been consistent with me that they want to reduce or eliminate Metro taxpayer obligations on the Stadium. They have. I support a deeper dive into the cost estimates that have been provided.”

Economist J.C. Bradbury of Kennesaw State University in Georgia believes the city could challenge the first-class stipulation that the Titans are using to arrive at their estimate of the obligation in the Titans’ current lease.

“The notion that first class is some objective standard that Nissan can’t come close to meeting with more modest changes is an important aspect here,” Bradbury tweeted. “Municipal leaders could clearly push back on this and win in court.”

About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.

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