Nissan_Stadium

In a joint press conference Monday afternoon, Tennessee Titans CEO Burke Nihill joined Mayor John Cooper to announce that the city will abandon Nissan Stadium renovations and pursue a new stadium for the team. After almost a year of negotiations, the two parties have agreed on terms for a new lease and a plan to finance $2.1 billion in construction costs.

A new stadium will also anchor a redesigned East Bank. Metro planners have focused more than a year's worth of time and energy to developing the Imagine East Bank vision plan, which was passed by the Metro Planning Commission last week. The project seeks to redevelop a mostly industrial 338-acre area just east of downtown with substantial infrastructure investment from the city. Metro’s portion of a new stadium — $760 million in bonded debt issued by the Metro Sports Authority, according to Monday’s announcement — will be funded, in part, by state and local sales taxes collected on the East Bank and in the stadium. Other public financing will come from an already-approved $500 million subsidy from the state of Tennessee and revenue bonds backed by a 1 percent hotel-motel tax. The Titans and the NFL will cover $840 million.

Timeliness appeared to be a concern for the city and the team, which hopes to open the 2026 season at a new facility, and the announcement comes during a period of rapid inflation and rising interest rates.

Compared to the current Nissan Stadium lease, the new deal substantially changes the financial landscape for the city and the team. During the announcement, Cooper emphasized that the Titans, a multibillion-dollar sports franchise, will provide the financial backstop for construction overruns and continuing maintenance and that no money from the general fund will go toward the facility.

According to the team, continuing maintenance will first be paid from a fund furnished by sales taxes — the Titans step in if this runs dry. With no stadium carveout, local sales taxes would otherwise go to Metro's general fund.

According to the city, various taxes associated with stadium use and tourism will back debt, but the general fund could be used to provide a backstop if that money doesn’t completely cover its debt. The city has retained Goldman Sachs as its underwriter and hopes to have more details about its $760 million bond issuance as the deal moves through the council.

Cooper supported the proposal with an advanced letter from Venue Solutions Group, a consulting firm hired at the request of Metro councilmembers to assess the city’s liabilities for renovating Nissan Stadium, the Titans’ current home. Consultants won’t finish a full evaluation until Nov. 1, but at the request of the mayor estimated that the city will owe $1.75 billion to $1.95 billion in upgrades through the life of the stadium. Five years ago, a report by the same group estimated upgrades at $293.2 million.

The mayor’s office is expected to file full lease terms with the Metro Council in the next week, where legislators will vet and scrutinize what will be the second-most-expensive sports stadium in the world, behind SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. 

Former Mayor Phil Bredesen locked in the Titans in 1996 with a lease highly favorable to the team, including the obligation for Metro to keep playing facilities in “first-class condition.” That broad term, along with the rapid evolution of peer NFL facilities across the country, has meant massive financial exposure for the city and led to the situation today. The Titans have interpreted Nissan to carry $1.8 billion in liability, a number roughly corroborated by the report commissioned by Metro. 

At Monday’s press conference, Cooper praised Bredesen for attracting the team and building Nashville’s national reputation. Amid a struggling public school system and struggling city services, a new stadium has created a difficult public relations message for Cooper as he considers reelection.

Various aspects of the deal, including the specific terms of a new lease, will move through council and the Metro Sports Authority. The stadium deal comes alongside several outstanding high-dollar negotiations, including an in-progress lease between Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Metro about Global Mall space and stalled negotiations with Speedway Motorsports about NASCAR at the fairgrounds. Originally set up by Bredesen to broker the city’s relationship with the Titans, Metro Sports Authority will be responsible for issuing new stadium bonds.

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