Nashville mayor pushes plan for $250 million soccer stadium

Nashville mayor Megan Barry revealed the deal she hopes will land an MLS expansion team.

The MLS group led by local businessman John Ingram would build a 27,500-seat soccer stadium at the Metro-owned Fairgrounds Nashville. Between the construction costs of the stadium and infrastructure work, the project is expected to cost $250 million.

Barry is selling the project as a way to redevelop the fairgrounds area, located south of downtown Nashville. If the deal was approved, its size and support would make Nashville one of the favorites to land an MLS expansion team. Twelve cities are vying for four spots, the first two expected to be awarded in mid-December.

The deal. Stadium funding would come from a combination of three sources:
-- $200 million in revenue bonds to go toward the construction of stadium;
-- $25 million in cash from the MLS ownership group to go toward the construction of stadium, and
-- $25 million in Metro general obligation bonds to pay for infrastructure work.

To pay back the Metro's revenue bonds with debt service of $13 million per year,
-- The MLS group would pay lease payments of $9 million per year;
-- Revenues from sales taxes generated at the stadium and a new $1.75-per-ticket tax would generate another $4 million. The use of revenues from sales taxes was approved by the state legislature just as the MLS effort started to get going in Nashville last year.

Approvals. The Metro Council, as well as the Board of Fair commissioners and Sports Authority board of directors, will have to sign off on the project in the next two months.

At the Aug. 15 meeting, Ingram presented his plan for MLS soccer in Nashville and answered questions of council members, many of whom knew little about MLS and several of whom had questions about MLS's business model. The next Metro Council meeting is on Oct. 17.

The Board of Fair commissioners will need to approve a lease, while the Sports Authority board of directors will have to issue the bonds.

Ingram's pitch on Monday: "We've certainly listened very closely to the advice that MLS has been giving us, and they've said unequivocally that no city would be considered without a viable stadium plan. Other cities have failed at moments like this and in other ways. I feel very, very strongly that if we can come to an agreement on a stadium proposal, then we have a very good chance of being selected in December."

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