When it was unveiled two months ago, the Nashville Sounds’ “Home Run for Downtown” project looked like, if not exactly a home run, at least a solid double. The concepta baseball stadium adjoining several residential and retail developments on the former thermal plant sitewas cleverly designed to appeal to sports fans, downtown revitalization types and civic boosters alike. Things have gone a bit sour lately though, and Sounds general manager Glenn Yaeger may be lucky just to get up to the plate.
While pretty much everyone who cares likes the general idea of a shiny new ballpark downtown, the consensus remains that the Sounds should pay for it themselves. Knowing this, the team has maintained that Metro would not be on the hook for the project. But this isn’t technically true. The project depends, by the Sounds’ own estimate, on a $38.5 million bond issuance not by the team, but by Metro. The Sounds do indeed promise to guarantee the bonds via projected revenue from the development, but that doesn’t change the fact that, if the whole thing fails, it’s up to Metro to cover the margin.
And that, according to a study published last week by international consulting firm KPMG, is a distinct possibility.
The city-commissioned study cited numerous problems with the Sounds’ proposal, especially what its authors conclude are the Sounds’ revenue overestimations. Team officials assert that ticket sales, concessions and rental fees will raise enough cash to pay back their obligation. KPMG also endorsed Metro finance director David Manning’s insistence on a responsible third-party guarantor for the bonds.
Manning clearly has never been a big fan of the project anyway, and the KPMG study has only reaffirmed his skepticism. But what about our council members? Well, thanks to the Nashville Sounds’ own “e-mail-the-entire-council” link on its Web site, the Scene polled all of the council members on the Sounds’ proposal. Nineteen of the 40 members responded with the following results.
Only three council members say they are in general support of the proposal: Adam Dread, Diane Neighbors and Rip Ryman. Two are opposed to the proposal as presented: Tommy Bradley and Greg Adkins. The remaining 14 are, in varying degrees, undecided. Many of these cite the KPMG study as their main concern, and several add that they have reservations about Yaeger himself, whose energetic, in-your-face style can be a double-edged sword in a Southern city which still reveres political gentility.
Yaeger will probably be in a sour mood when he hears about council member Charlie Tygard and Jamie Isabel’s recently proposed resolution to establish an 18-member task force that would “determine the highest and best use for the downtown thermal plant property.” Task forces are ever-popular among legislative bodies that want to avoid dealing with a touchy issue, and this one is getting touchier by the inning. Our bet: looks like a rain delay.
Speaking of do-nothingness, the Metro school board has declined to review the applications for four potential Nashville charter schoolspublic schools that operate independently from the local systembecause the wannabe charters proposed to start at grade levels for which no pool of eligible students presently exists.
The problem with that logic is that while such students may not exist now, they may in the future, and it would probably be better to have some charter schools ready when that happens rather than playing catch-up after the fact.
After all, the whole point of charter schools is that, in theory at least, they thrive without bureaucratic restraints. Couldn’t we therefore do our best to avoid bureaucratically restraining them?
Touched by a Deaniac
Once left for dead, Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark has snuck up on everyone and made his mark in Tennessee in preparation for the upcoming Feb. 10 primary. A statewide television blitz targeted to conservative Democrats has been followed by the endorsements of, according to the Clark camp, 127 Democrats across the state, including Congressman Lincoln Davis, state Sen. Thelma Harper and former Bredesen for Governor finance chair Johnny Hayes. The smart money right now is on Clark by a nose.
Notwithstanding, while the rest of us were getting geared up for the Titans-Patriots game Saturday, a local group of diehard political activists seemed to think that winning Howard Dean the Democratic presidential nomination was more important than a silly football gameif you can imagine such a thing.
Coordinated in part by the always active local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, “Door-to-Door-for-Dean” began a weeklong effort to target more than 10,000 Democratic households in Davidson County in preparation for the start of early voting next week. There’s still work to be done: During the weekend, the Deaniacs managed to hit about 4,000 homes. The ultimate goal, according to a Dean Web page, is to “touch” every Democrat in Nashville.
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