Stadium committee chair doubles down on opposition to any Nashville deal with Titans

Stadium committee chair doubles down on opposition to any Nashville deal with Titans

Bob Mendes, chair of Metro Council’s East Bank Stadium Committee, issued a 10-page memorandum last week emphasizing his opposition to a deal between Metro and the Tennessee Titans for a new NFL stadium downtown.

Nashville officials should kill the proposal to build a $2.1 billion enclosed arena and instead vote to renovate the deteriorating open-air Nissan Stadium, Mendes argues.

He makes the case that Cooper and Titans officials have deceived residents with aggressive “spin” from “the full-time communications staff of the Mayor’s Office combined with the army of lobbyists and media-relations people hired by the team.”

Metro Council is expected to receive the final stadium proposal, including financing details, by next month.

Mendes: Reject the stadium deal, renovate Nissan Stadium instead

The deal’s broad terms were approved in a 27-8 Metro Council vote in December.

But Mendes alleges that supporters were bamboozled by officials who argue that the proposal removes a hefty taxpayer liability. It would end Metro’s lease agreement with the Titans that requires the county to maintain the stadium in “first-class condition.”

“The proposed $2.1 billion stadium deal should be rejected,” Mendes wrote. “It’s not good for the city or its finances. It’s too large of a subsidy with not enough benefit for Nashville.”

Mendes said he has studied the deal’s broad points as chair of the East Bank Stadium Committee. He’s focused on the connections between new stadium development and a wider redevelopment of the industrial East Bank of the Cumberland River downtown.

“There is no reasonable way to think that a new stadium or a new neighborhood will be built without the other. For this reason, you have to think about the costs of both,” Mendes said. “Compare the combined stadium-and-neighborhood costs, versus a renovation.”

His opponents suggest Mendes is making a purely political play in his bid to win the mayor’s seat, in a growing field of candidates for the Aug. 3 election, and that he doesn’t offer a viable alternative.

What’s the best deal for taxpayers?

Mayor John Cooper’s “smart-growth” plan is to partner with incoming investors to manage the downsides of Nashville’s rapid growth − primarily increased homelessness, traffic jams and a widening wealth gap that restricts many downtown workers from living there.

Metro’s Imagine East Bank plan, approved by the Planning Commission, sets out community priorities for new private development − primarily public open space, affordable housing stock and traffic management − to be financed with revenues from that growth.

Instead of improving East Nashville, Mendes argues that the East Bank plan will create a major liability for taxpayers.

“The Mayor’s office and the team have bigger bullhorns than I do,” Mendes said. “The bottom line is that the stadium deal will rely on hundreds of millions of public tax dollars for future stadium improvements, with those public funds being administered by the team.”

Supporters of the deal want to transfer stadium management and financial obligation to the Titans. The team also agreed to cover tens of millions of dollars in unpaid maintenance bills owed by Metro as the stadium’s landlord, if a new stadium deal is executed.

Two professional venue-assessment reports estimated that maintaining Nissan Stadium will cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion through 2039.

But Mendes insists, without explanation, that it would only cost $500 million for renovation.

“There is no credible argument that Metro’s obligation under the current stadium lease is anything close to $1.8 billion,” he states.

He writes that Metro more likely owes $760 million, since that’s the amount of bonds Metro would agree to float on behalf of the Titans. The loan would be repaid with stadium revenues and a hotel tax.

“The Mayor’s Office ignores that there are existing revenue streams available to help pay to upgrade Nissan Stadium,” Mendes states. “For this reason, a hypothetical $500 million upgrade wouldn’t require Metro to issue $500 million of new general obligation bonds.

“The Mayor’s Office has provided an analysis of revenue sources for a new stadium. They broke it down between existing revenue sources and new ones. That analysis shows that existing revenue sources for Nissan Stadium will generate $445.1 million in revenue between now and the end of the current lease, if extended, in 2039.”