A Metro Council committee threw the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) a serious curveball today, debating whether to require the team to cover debt should associated development next to a new ballpark not happen.
The funding plan for the new Sounds ballpark calls for the city to pay $37 million in construction costs, plus $23 million for land and $5 million for capitalized interest. The team would commit to, but not contractually be obligated, to spend $60 million on a residential/commercial development near the ballpark; $750,000 in annual property tax payments would help pay down ballpark debt.
Now, the way the Metro Council works, there can be multiple committees working on the same proposal. Today, two committees were reviewing the ballpark lease and bonding plan. One committee voted to require the Sounds to be on the hook for $750,000 annually should the team’s development plans fail. The other rejected the proposal.
Sounds owner Frank Ward, who has sunk his own money into Greer Stadium, wasn’t pleased by the proposal, calling it an unfair penalty. From The Tennessean:
He said the Sounds plan to pay the city more than $20 million in lease payments over 30 years, starting in 2015 when the new ballpark is scheduled to open.
“We came to this town six years ago,” Ward said. “None of you knew me. I said, ‘We’re going to do A, B and C.’ You had no reason to believe me. We proceeded to do A, B, C, plus, plus, plus. I kept my word, OK?
“This is a penalty. I don’t think this is something to incentivize me. I’m about to commit $5 million to buy land. I’ve already hired an architect, and I’m spending money to design a building. I’m not doing that because at the end of the day I’m going to say, ‘Ah, I’ve got the stadium. I fooled all you guys. I just wasted $6, $7, $8 million of my money.’ ”
Despite the split decision, the ballpark bonding plan did move forward. Another vote on the bonding plan is set for Tuesday. The plan calls for a new ballpark in the city’s Sulphur Dell area to open in 2015.
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