Council members clarify details of baseball stadium (Sulphur Dell)

(l-r) Metro Council Lady  Erica Gilmore, Metro Councilman Scott Davis, and Metro Councilman Jerry Maynard

(l-r) Metro Council Lady Erica Gilmore, Metro Councilman Scott Davis, and Metro Councilman Jerry Maynard

Metro Councilwoman Erica Gilmore and several fellow members of the Metro Council Minority Caucus hosted a public information meeting last weekend to present the facts about a proposed baseball stadium and multiple use development downtown. The proposal paves the way for baseball to return to its historic home at Sulphur Dell, the original home of professional baseball in Nashville. Sulphur Dell was home to several minor league teams, most notably the Nashville Vols and the Negro League’s Elite Giants.
“This development is a wonderful catalyst for the north Nashville community,” said Gilmore.

A previous information session had been held mid-week during the day and there were constituents who were unable to attend that session. Saturday’s meeting at a Goodwill Industries meeting room on Herman Street was held so that more citizens could learn more details about the project prior to votes by the Metro Council this month.
“This is the first-ever economic initiative that’s been done in north Nashville,” said Metro Councilman Scott Davis. “During the last 20 or 30 years since General Hospital, everything has been built in north Nashville.”

Rich Reibling, Metro Finance Director explained the details about the proposal and the financing plan for the significant public-private partnership that allows Metro to build and own a new minor-league ballpark at Sulphur Dell, requiring approvals by Metro Council, Nashville Sports Authority, and the State Building Commission.

“This investment north of downtown returns baseball to its historic home in Sulphur Dell and will spur further redevelopment of the Jefferson Street area, and that’s great for our entire city,” Mayor Karl Dean said after the Metro Council approved legislation on second reading on Tuesday, Dec. 3 The “vote moved the project one step closer to reality.”

“Sulphur Dell is a victory for every person who believes in economic justice, economic inclusion, and economic prosperity for all Nashvillians,” says Metro councilman Jerry Maynard.

The Triple-A baseball club the Nashville Sounds would lease the ballpark from Metro under a 30-year lease agreement, beginning with the opening of the ballpark in 2015 and ending in 2045 unless extended by the parties, where the Sounds will pay rent to Metro in the amount of $700,000 per year. The Sounds will operate and manage the ballpark; maintain the parking garage and keep revenue generated during baseball games; and be responsible for ballpark maintenance. Metro will be responsible for major capital expenditures.

The project is a nearly $150 million public-private investment in the Jefferson Street/Germantown area. The proposal includes agreements with the state of Tennessee, the Nashville Sounds and Embrey Development Corp., a leading multi-family developer. A majority of the investment is private, including more than $50 million by the Nashville Sounds for a multi-family/retail development and $37 million by Embrey for a multi-family development.

Metro’s participation in the total investment would be $65 million, including $37 million to construct the ballpark, $23 million to the state, $18 million to construct a 1,000-space garage for state employees and Sounds patrons, and $5 million to construct a future underground garage at the proposed new Tennessee State Library and Archives, and $5 million for capitalized interest during construction. The Sports Authority would issue revenue bonds on a 30-year term.

The deal allows the public investment in the ballpark campus to largely pay for itself using five sources of revenue and eliminating some existing budget allocations, specifically, Sounds lease: $700,000; sales tax redirect: $650,000; property tax revenue from Sounds development: $750,000; property tax revenue from Embrey development: $675,000; and existing MDHA Tax-Increment Financing (TIF): $520,000; for a total of $3.295 million. With these budget costs eliminated, Sounds obligation: $250,000 and a lease at Nashville School of the Arts: $410,000, totaling $660,000, the annual net operating impact to Metro budget is projected at $345,000.

There will be no residential displacement under the plan, and it should provide a significant financial impact to the North Nashville area.

“The goal is to get a large amount of minorities and African Americans and women building the stadium,” said Davis, “and provide some jobs for some local folks.”