Metro Council approved three ordinances and one resolution Tuesday night that paves the way for a $275 million Major League Soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds Nashville.
The legislation—which all passed by more than 30 votes—includes a ground lease for a 10-acre mixed-use development with a hotel, housing and retail; the rezoning needed for the development; a building demolition and ticket tax bill; and $50 million in general obligation bonds for fairgrounds improvements.
The council voted down a resolution that would put the $50 million in general obligation bonds for fairground improvements on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Nashville's MLS team ownership and advocacy group Stand Up Nashville finalized a community benefit agreement Monday, which many council members cited as their reason for support. The agreement says the ownership promises affordable housing and a minimum wage of $15.50 for all jobs at the fairgrounds.
Fairgrounds building demolition and ticket tax
The council voted 31-8 to approve the demolition of buildings at the fairgrounds. The same ordinance implements a ticket tax that would help alleviate debt from the project.
The ordinance, which had to pass by 27 votes and not just a simple majority, will require attendees pay a $1.75 tax per ticket during the first five years, reaching $2.50 after the seventh year.
According to a plan approved in July by the board of fair commissioners, the fairgrounds redesign plan includes demolishing and relocating existing buildings to a separate portion of the fairgrounds northeast of the planned soccer stadium. The stadium would then be constructed on the southwest portion of the fairgrounds where the current buildings are located.
Mixed-use development at fairgrounds
The council approved a much-debated ordinance that would lease 10 acres of fairgrounds land to the Nashville MLS ownership group. The 99-year ground lease requires the ownership group to pay $200,000 annually for the first 30 years.
What they said
District 25 Councilman Russ Pulley, on the subject of placing the $50 million in general obligation bond for fairgrounds improvements as a referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot:
"We’re studied this stadium for months, and if it goes to a referendum, it’s going to be a campaign of sound bytes," Pulley said. "Constituents are not expected to study this at the level we as council members are expected to dive into this. I’ve had my constituents come to me and tell me the same thing."
Mayor David Briley, on the subject of approved legislation clearing the way for the stadium at the Fairgrounds Nashville:
"This project will provide needed upgrades to the Fairgrounds, essential affordable housing, broad minority business opportunities and increased safety protections for our workers.
This project will improve the Fairgrounds facilities but it will not change our customs or the activities we cherish. I pledge to all of those engaged in these discussions over the past months that I am listening. Together we will build on the years of community tradition at our Fairgrounds and I look forward to continuing to work closely with you as this project moves forward."
Stadium construction is expected to begin next summer, with the first game in the new stadium slated for February 2021. It’s possible that a 2020 season could be hosted at another location during construction.
In November, Metro Council approved $225 million in revenue bonds on the bases that the Board of Fair Commissioners would pass a plan to overhaul the 117-acre fairgrounds.
A month following the council’s approval, Nashville was awarded an MLS expansion team. Nashville was the first of 12 cities that submitted formal bids in January to be awarded one of four available MLS expansion teams.