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Mayor Cooper: Nashville’s football stadium will not be taxpayer burden under new plan| Opinion

Rather than pouring over a billion dollars into an aging stadium, we began working with the Titans and the state on the idea of building a new enclosed stadium for Nashville.

John Cooper
Guest Columnist
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  • John Cooper is the ninth mayor of Metro Nashville-Davidson County Government.
  • We are working on plans for a new stadium because doing nothing is not an option, and renovating the current stadium would be financially irresponsible.
  • Tourists and spending around the stadium will pay for this project, not Nashville families.

For the past 18 months, I have worked together with the Tennessee Titans and our valued state partners to explore all stadium options that make financial sense, provide benefits to our community, and keep the Titans in Tennessee for generations to come.

I want to give an update on the process and share the principles that have guided my thinking about a stadium solution.

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Doing nothing Is not an option   

Right now, under the original lease, Nashville taxpayers are on the hook for tens of millions of dollars per year for stadium maintenance and improvements.

Those are general fund dollars that we need for other essential priorities impacting neighborhoods and families – like our public schools, first responders, homelessness, and housing. The lease obligates Nashville to provide a “first-class” stadium until 2038, an obligation that now means either renovating the current stadium or building a new stadium.

Mayor John Cooper delivers his State of Metro Address at Southeast Community Center  in Antioch, Tenn., Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

Doing nothing means continuing to burden the Metro General Fund – an unacceptable status quo that will cost Nashville hundreds of millions of dollars.

A win for taxpayers

Equally important to me is the obligation that I feel to you – the obligation that we do not use your property taxes on a stadium deal.

Today, I’m excited to share that through collaboration with the Titans and state government, we are nearing a stadium solution that – unlike our current arrangement – will not burden Metro’s General Fund.

As a city, we are in a different place today than we were 26 years ago.  Nashville voters made a smart bet by approving $144 million in sports authority bonds and general obligation bonds to build a stadium. Both Nashville and the entire state have benefited tremendously from having the Titans here, and now, we have the opportunity to expand those benefits by getting the city out of the stadium maintenance business.

We initially pursued renovations to Nissan Stadium thought to cost an estimated $600 million, but after factoring in rising interest rates, inflation, deferred maintenance and aging infrastructure, the cost increased to more than $1 billion.

Additionally, the current lease obligates the taxpayer through 2038 pushing our exposure even higher. Some of the stadium’s most basic infrastructure is nearing the end of its usable life. Rather than pouring over a billion dollars into an aging stadium, we began working with the Titans and the state on the idea of building a new enclosed stadium for Nashville.

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A team effort with the state and hospitality industry  

To finance construction of a new enclosed stadium, the state committed $500 million and passed legislation allowing an increase in the hotel-motel tax, which the hospitality industry supports.

In the event of construction overruns, I have asked that they be covered by the Titans. I will not sell public land, raise the sales tax, or spend your property tax dollars to fund the stadium.

Tourists and spending around the stadium will pay for this project, not your family.

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We are working on plans for a new stadium because doing nothing is not an option, and renovating the current stadium would be financially irresponsible. As we near a final stadium proposal, here are my commitments to you:

  • Under no circumstances will property tax or sales tax increases pay for stadium construction or future stadium maintenance or renovations.
  • The primary funding source for stadium construction will be the Titans and visitors to Nashville and the stadium campus. Taxpayers will be protected in the event of construction overruns.
  • The Titans will take on the financial responsibility of maintaining the stadium, removing Metro’s General Fund as the financial backstop.
  • Any new agreement will result in the Titans staying in Nashville for the long-term.
  • Metro will not sell any of the land that it owns on the East Bank in order to finance the stadium.
  • Metro will work with the Titans to secure high-paying jobs, meaningful minority contractor participation, parks and green-space, affordable housing, and a welcoming environment for Nashville residents that incorporates the stadium into the community vision for the surrounding neighborhood.

This is a challenging and exciting moment for our city. The Titans and Governor Lee, along with his colleagues at the state level, have been great partners throughout this process, and I am committed to securing the Titans future in Nashville in a way that protects taxpayers.

John Cooper is the ninth mayor of Metro Nashville-Davidson County Government.

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