Playing catch-up on the new Nashville Sounds stadium? Here's primer on the situation. It's not everything, but we think it'll get you started.
Hold on. Since when are the Sounds getting a new stadium?
The franchise has been angling for a new stadium for years. In 2007, under then-Mayor Bill Purcell a deal was in place that would have put a new stadium on the riverfront. That deal fell through.
In 2011, a study by Populous Inc. — a national stadium architecture firm — identified three potential sites for a new baseball stadium: Sulphur Dell (the original home of baseball in the city, in the heart of North Nashville's Germantown and Salemtown neighborhoods), the east bank, and the North Gulch.
After discussions about a new stadium between the city and the team appeared to have stalled, The Tennessean broke the news in August that Mayor Karl Dean's administration that a stadium project at Sulphur Dell was in the works. Two days later, the mayor confirmed that report at a press conference, although details about the project remained scarce. More details, including renderings of the stadium and plans for its design, emerged at an Oct. 25 community meeting.
On Nov. 8, that the mayor's office announced a deal had been reached the state, the Sounds and a private developer to allow the project to move forward. And on Nov. 11, the administration revealed the financing plan for the ballpark.
The Metro Council advanced plan on first reading on Nov. 20 and will consider it for the second time this evening (with plans to give it a third and final vote on Dec. 10). So here we are.
At-Large Metro Councilman Charlie Tygard plans to file an amendment next week that would "protect the taxpayer" if a key part of the Sulphur Dell ballpark deal falls through.
One source of revenue Metro plans to put toward paying off the $65 million in debt it will take on by buying land from the state and building a new stadium for the Nashville Sounds is the property tax from a $50 million retail and multi-family development built by the Sounds. Metro officials project such a development would generate $750,000 per year in tax revenue. The Sounds and the Dean administration say they're confident the development will get built, but the team is not contractually obligated to follow through on it.
If they don't, it could leave Metro to make up the difference, bringing the city's annual debt service obligation to around $1 million. Dean administration officials say they're confident that another developer would jump at the chance to build on the property, if the Sounds don't go ahead with their plans.
Tygard's amendment would force the Sounds to pay up if that confidence turns out to be misplaced. It would obligate the Sounds to pay Metro $750,000 for each year that a $50 million mixed-use development next to the ballpark is not constructed. According to an explanation from council attorney Jon Cooper, passed along by Tygard, it wouldn't matter whether the Sounds were the developer or not. Once a development was constructed, the Sounds would be relieved of the obligation.
Earlier this month, when the financing details for the proposed new Nashville Sounds ballpark at Sulphur Dell were first unveiled, Mayor Karl Dean explained to reporters why the project needed to move so quickly.
"There's really three reasons," Dean said. "One would be that it's important for us to move forward while interest rates are low. We don't want to delay and have the opportunity for interest rates to go back up. We also have one of the private parties involved needs to get this deal completed by the end of the year. This is a private party, Embrey, who had been involved in this project of building over there before we just moved forward with the ballpark project. And it's important for us to move forward because we'd like to get the stadium open for the Sounds season in 2015.
For this week's dead-tree issue of the Scene — on stands tomorrow, one day early, due to the Thanksgiving holiday — we spoke with Sounds owner Frank Ward, who has another reason the deal needs to get done fast.
An excerpt, after the jump:
In an answer of sorts to The Amp Coalition's rollout in the lobby of Bridgestone Arena, the leaders of StopAmp.org Inc. summoned the press to Maggiano's Little Italy Wednesday to formally introduce a coalition of their own.
Both Lee Beaman, auto dealership king, and Richard L. Fulton, son of former Nashville mayor Dick Fulton, confirmed to the Scene earlier this month that they would co-chair a coalition of business and land owners along the West End corridor who are opposed The Amp.
Maggiano's has not taken a stance on The Amp one way or the other, which a representative from the restaurant made clear to media members. They were simply playing host to a group who had paid for use of their private dining space. (As it happens, Pith witnessed Beaman footing the bill.)
After some brief remarks by Dianne Ferrell Neal — an attorney and professor at Nashville School of Law who has been preaching the Stop Amp gospel in west side neighborhoods along with Vanderbilt University professor Malcom Getz — Beaman gave a statement of his own before introducing Fulton.
"We are deeply concerned about the negative impact that The Amp will have on the West End and Harding Road and downtown corridor," he said. "We have 450 employees who are deeply concerned that our loss in business is going to impact their ability to support their families."
At around 8:30 Thursday night, Goodlettsville City Commissioner Zach Young tweeted his spleen.
"Hard to sleep tonight knowing @TheContributor sales will end in Goodlettsville," he said. "May have been on losing side of the vote, but was right side."
For a couple of months, Young, who was elected last year at the age of 20, has been fighting against a city ordinance similar to one in Brentwood that effectively bans sales of The Contributor. The street newspaper — the most successful of its kind in the country — is sold largely by homeless vendors.
The ordinance arose under the guise of safety concerns — vendors typically sell the paper to people in their cars — but Young has asserted what many observers assumed: that "safety concerns" were few until homeless folks arrived in Goodlettsville to sell the paper. Goodlettsville Mayor John Coombs and City Manager Tim Ellis have said the paper, and its vendors, are not being targeted.
In any case, after deferring the ordinance last month, the commission passed it by a vote of 3-2 last night, over Young's objection and attempted amendments. Vice Mayor Jane Birdwell joined Young in voting against.
My column in this week's issue is on The Amp's crash with an apparent road block at the state level, from which Mayor Karl Dean is seeking $35 million.
But as these things tend to do, the story is developing faster than the speed of print.
Essentially, after Speaker of the House Beth Harwell said last week that she didn't think the state should fund the project, it became evident that while the mayor's office had failed to convince Harwell of the project's merits, they had apparently failed to even try with others. State Sen. Steve Dickerson, for instance, a Nashville Republican, said he hasn't even heard from the mayor's office or Metro about The Amp. (He has heard, however, from dozens of constituents who want him to stop it.)
Ditto Bill Haslam. Yesterday, the governor sounded as if he's gotten the chopped-liver treatment too.
"...And to date, nobody's really kind of come to us and said, 'Ok, here's how it would work, here's what we need you to do, here's the cost benefits to not just Metro Davidson but also to the state,'" he told reporters.
After unveiling the financing plan for the proposed Nashville Sounds stadium earlier this week, Mayor Karl Dean made his way to The Tennessean Tuesday to give his sales pitch to the daily's editorial board.
He outlined plans for the new ballpark — it's very important, apparently, that we call this a 'ballpark," not a stadium — which he says will connect the Germantown and Salemtown neighborhoods to the downtown core. On the financial side, the administration has been saying that the
stadium ballpark will almost "pay for itself," detailing a plan that would use the Sounds' annual lease payment ($700,000) and tax revenues generated by the stadium and two private development projects to pay for the $4.3 million annual debt obligation. (Here's where that "almost" comes in — the plan also calls for Metro to chip in $345,000 annually to pay off the debt.)
Dean tells The Tennessean that the plan meets his criteria for the project — the Sounds have "skin in the game," he says.
But the Sounds do not have skin in the game.
Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling unveiled the plan at a Monday morning meeting of the Metro Sports Authority.
Under the plan, Metro will be obligated for a total of $65 million — $37 million for the stadium itself, plus a $23 million payment to the state for the land and $5 million in capitalized interest during a 24-month construction phase. The Sounds, simultaneous with the construction of the park, will build a $50 million multi-family and retail development along Third Avenue. A third entity — San Antonio's Embrey Development, which had an option on the land that is slated to be the stadium's left field — will build a 250-unit, $37 million multi-family residential development on the block bounded by Third and Fourth Avenues and Jefferson and Jackson Streets.
A transcript of Mayor Karl Dean's comments are after the jump ...
Mayor Karl Dean has reached an agreement with the state, the Nashville Sounds and a private developer to allow for a new minor league baseball stadium at Sulphur Dell.
Dean's office announced the agreement in a release Friday afternoon. More details, including the financing plan, will be revealed Monday at two information sessions with members of the Nashville Sports Authority and Metro Council. Metro officials and project architects revealed information about what the project would look like at a community meeting last month.
Per the Dean administration release: "The plan includes agreements with the State of Tennessee, which owns property at the proposed location; the Nashville Sounds, which would lease the ballpark from Metro; and Embrey Development Corp., a multi-family developer that has agreed to swap property at the proposed location with Metro."
The proposed $40 million ball park would sit between Third and Fifth avenues north, and hold 10,000 people. The project also includes a new 1,000-space parking lot and a greenway.
You don't have to step foot in West End Discount Liquor & Wines to know where the shop comes down in the debate over The Amp.
Two red "Stop Amp" signs sit in the front windows of the store, which sits near Centennial Park on West End, right in the middle of the would-be route for Mayor Karl Dean's proposed $175 million bus rapid transit system. If you do go inside, there's a petition opposing the project at the counter.
Businesses, residents and other interests along the corridor are lining up for a fight that both sides say is about the future of the city. In red are the opponents of The Amp, who insist the BRT line will actually make traffic along West End worse, along with negatively affecting businesses and residents in a number of ways. What was originally a group of grumbling homeowners has grown in numbers, and gained the support of some influential (and deep pocketed) political players. In green are the project's supporters, led by the Dean administration, and backed by The Amp Coalition, a larger group of more powerful business interests in the city.
That, and the ground-level debate playing out in neighborhoods along the route, is the subject of this week's Scene cover story. But on almost a daily basis, new opposition to the mayor's signature transit project emerges.
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