NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Titans’ campaign for a new $2.1 billion domed stadium is facing criticism from the chair of the committee tasked with looking into the deal.
East Bank Stadium Committee Chair Bob Mendes says Nashville Mayor John Cooper is not telling the full truth when he says the new stadium proposal “relieves” taxpayers of paying at least $1.75 billion by voiding the 1996 stadium deal with the Titans.
“Honesty, that’s the biggest lie the mayor has told. There is nothing about building a new stadium that would quote relieve the taxpayers,” Mendes said. “The pitch is that between state and local money we are going to spend way over a billion dollars on a new stadium, and somehow, that is being pitched as relieving the taxpayers. I don’t know how spending a billion dollars of taxpayer money is relieving taxpayers of an obligation.”
However, Nashville Mayor Senior Advisor Ben Eagles pushed back on criticism of the deal and reaffirmed that Metro taxpayers will not be paying for the deal.
“At this point, what we can say confidently is there is not going to be an impact on Nashville residents in terms of taxes on a new stadium built in the East Bank,” Eagles said. “There has been a sort of scattered criticism of some on council related to this deal, but nowhere in that is there an alternative proposal of what would relieve taxpayers of what is a $2 billion burden.”
Mendes tweeted photos of what the nearly $2 billion renovations to Nissan Stadium and questioned whether they were truly getting an accurate picture of their financial obligations.
“There’s no way on Earth that ‘first class’ stadium requires a three-story sports bar or a luxury songwriters lounge or a covered rooftop area with grass and trees on top of Nissan Stadium,” Mendes said referring to the original deal’s requirement that the city help maintain a “first class” stadium for the football team.
“We shouldn’t be on the hook for that,” he added.
The mayor’s office says they brought in an outside company to review the cost of renovating similar stadiums and making the renovations the team put out before discussions of a new stadium began.
“[R]egardless of which route you are looking that was between $1.3 and 1.9 billion… a liability under the current lease that lies at the feet of the taxpayer if we didn’t go down this route,” Eagles said.
As to whether there are unknown costs to taxpayers in the deal like parking around the stadium, the mayor’s team said these costs will also not be passed onto Nashvillians.
They said while there are some parking obligations for the team in the terms of the deal, any future parking needs will be paid for by 50% of area sales taxes around the stadium.
And to some online criticism that this money should be used for other issues like housing or education, Eagles said these funds are just for the stadium.
“This is funding that cannot go to other priorities so we are using a unique private, state, local partnership to address a liability we have known about for years,” he said.
Yet, still, some are waiting to see the final bill before signing on to the deal.