Tennessee Stadium Committee Chair Wants More Info Before Non-Binding Vote

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The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –

The chair of Nashville’s East Bank Stadium Committee believes that the Metro Council does not have enough information from the mayor’s office to properly analyze and vote on a non-binding term sheet at the council’s Dec. 20 meeting.

In a series of posts on the topic, at-large Council Member Bob Mendes has pointed out that, while the mayor’s office has provided a breakdown of tax projections that are expected to send $2.9 billion in public tax funds toward the stadium over the next 34 years – not including $500 million from the state of Tennessee – it has not provided a projected breakdown of how those funds will be spent.

The stadium deal, as proposed, would be the highest amount of public funds ever spent on a professional sports stadium.

“There are still too many unknowns,” Mendes wrote. “Seeking Council approval for the non-binding term sheet at this time is an unnecessary false start.”

Mendes asked the mayor’s office specifically for the spending projections from the tax fund. But his request was denied in an email Mendes shared.

“The substance of more final projections will depend in significant part on Metro’s effectiveness in these last few Team negotiations and in our rating agency approach,” wrote Mike Jameson, Nashville’s Director of Legislative Affairs. “Publicizing preliminary projections that our negotiating team is using to drive favorable negotiations with the Team would significantly impair our negotiating ability. And publicizing preliminary projections that remain a work in process would significantly muddle our message to rating agencies.

“As soon as Metro’s negotiating team has finalized negotiations and received rating agency feedback, we will have meaningful projections that can safely and appropriately be shared for comment, critique, etc. – along with full access to the consultants who helped prepare them, and along with the final negotiated documents.”

In a post on Friday, Mendes also pointed out that the term sheet is calling a new $3 ticket tax on non-NFL tickets at the new stadium “rent” instead of a tax. Mendes pointed out that one reason the deal could be doing that is because a tax at the stadium requires two-thirds approval from the Metro Council, or 27 votes, instead of a 21-vote simple majority of the council’s 40 members.

Mendes wrote that it could open up Metro Nashville to potential future litigation from ticket taxpayers if the tax is not appropriately approved by the council.

“This is basic stuff,” Mendes said. “The administration is asking the Council to approve a Term Sheet to build a $2.1 billion stadium. The Mayor’s Office is willing to give us a ‘preliminary’ analysis about the sources of tax revenue that shows $2.9 billion collected over 30 years.

“But they won’t provide any information showing how that $2.9 billion of public tax revenue will be spent? I know lots of folks want a new stadium, but it is truly outrageous to stiff arm the Council and public on this.”

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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