The NFL’s Tennessee Titans are one step closer to a new taxpayer-subsidized stadium after Nashville Mayor John Cooper and representatives of the team finalized plans for a venue backed by $1.26 billion in public funds.
The plan first announced last year carries a total price tag of $2.1 billion and calls for a covered, 1.7 million square foot stadium with the capacity to seat 60,000 people to be built in the city’s East Bank area. It will be built next to the team’s current home, the 23-year-old Nissan Stadium, also constructed with public funds.
The public share of funding includes $500 million of bonds by the state included in Tennessee’s 2022 budget and $760 million in revenue bonds from the Metropolitan Sports Authority, an arm of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County.
Obligations due on the Sports Authority debt are to be backed by several revenue streams according to the mayor’s office, notably a 1% increase in hotel taxes levied in Davidson County, plus state and local sales taxes from purchases made at the stadium, and a ticket tax on stadium events.
The mayor’s office said the new agreement took into account recommendations made by local officials after Nashville’s Metropolitan City Council approved a term sheet late last year.
Cooper portrays the deal as a win for Nashville taxpayers, using the argument that renovating and maintaining Nissan Stadium would cost between $1.75 billion and $1.95 billion over the remaining 17 years of the current stadium lease, which would be terminated.
The agreement calls for the Titans to waive $32 million of outstanding bills owed by the city for construction and maintenance on Nissan Stadium and for the team to pay off the remaining $30 million in bonds owed on Nissan Stadium.
The Metro government would regain control of over 66 acres of land, including the existing Nissan Stadium site, according to the mayor’s office.
Metropolitan City Council Member Bob Mendes, who opposes the stadium’s construction, said he hadn’t been updated on any major changes to the deal and has yet to see to see any concrete detailing of funding sources for the new debt in the plan.
The deal will cost taxpayers far more then was necessary, Mendes said.
“This isn’t a situation where the revenue sources are potentially light; it’s the opposite,” he said. “There is an intention to generate revenue greatly in excess of construction costs, with an eye toward building a war chest for the future stadium improvements.”
The decision to build the Titans a new stadium was based on a state sanctioned cost anlaysis that determined the arena’s construction to be cheaper than the price of refurbishing Nissan Stadium.
Mendes disagreed and said there was a “massive delta between the minimum obligation under the current lease and building the Titans their preferred ‘world-class stadium.’ He estimates the bond issuances in support of the project would put Nashville’s taxpayers on the hook for around $2.9 billion in the end.
“We’ve been consistently misled about the cost of renovating the current stadium and there’s no reason on earth why citizens of Nashville in the state of Tennessee should have the single biggest public spend on stadium ever in America,” he said.
The agreement’s final hurdle will be passing a vote in the Metropolitan City Council. In December, council members overwhelmingly approved the term sheet presented by Cooper 27-8 with three members abstaining.