Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Nashville council followed Titans lobbyist letter on $2.1B stadium deal votes

Renderings of new proposed Titans stadium
By Jon Styf, The Center Square, April 24, 2023 - Lobbyists for a new $2.1 billion Titans stadium sent an email to Metro Nashville council members on the morning of the second reading of a bill about the project detailing the Titans’ position on 28 amendments to the deal that were heard at that night’s meeting.

The email and documents were acquired and posted by Nashville residents opposed to the deal Monday.

A final vote on the stadium deal will be part of a 6:30 p.m. Tuesday special meeting on the bill that will follow four hours of public hearing on the stadium project.

The bill cannot be amended on third reading without the council’s rules being suspended, something that can be blocked by the vote of just two of the 40 council members.

The majority of council members voted along with the Titans’ preference on all of the amendments last week, with the Titans not showing a preference on one amendment from Council Member Freddie O’Connell on moving Titans rent funds from the Nashville Needs Impact Fund to the city’s general fund.

“We have indicated our support where possible, yet many of these have been introduced by long-time opponents to the plan and are designed to undermine the deal as negotiated or re-trade on key pillars,” Lobbyist Sam Reed of Jigsaw wrote. “The problematic amendment language ranges from sloppy and unnecessary to downright illegal with the potential to kill the deal. While our opposition may seem too widespread, our position is that if language is bad and/or unnecessary, then we don’t want to risk unintended consequences that could impact the deal overall.”

Council member Bob Mendes, chair of the East Bank Stadium Committee, was the sponsor of many of those amendments. At one point during the meeting, Mendes said it wasn’t necessary for him to explain one of his amendments because the Titans and lobbyists supported it.

Key among those opinions was team opposition to an amendment from council member Brendan Taylor that would have sent an estimated $360 million over 30 years to the city’s general fund.

The amendment had passed on a 19-18 vote at the council’s April 4 meeting before the second vote on the overall deal was pushed to April 18, when Council Member Jennifer Gamble offered a Titans-preferred amendment that cut that estimated number to $120 million over the life of the new lease.

“Regardless of how you feel about CM O’Connell’s amendments, it is CRITICAL that the Gamble compromise Amendment #27 passes first, regardless of what any councilmember might say on the floor to the contrary,” Reed wrote to council members in bold lettering.

Reed wrote that, after Taylor’s amendment passed the Titans and Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. “engaged” with those in the local music and events industry about the amendment.

“Nashville’s music and events industry were unified in pushing back on such a high additional rental fee (10% on every ticket) saying that passing on such a high fee would have a chilling effect on the 49 planned events annually,” Reed wrote.

Experts have said the estimates of non-NFL events at the stadium have been inflated.

During that time, the CVC sent several letters to council members with the names of concert promoters saying they were against the amendment, though Live Nation’s name was later removed from one letter. 

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