Is the soccer stadium coming to Metro Center?

Rendering of the Soccer Stadium (photo MLStoNashville).

With the future of the soccer stadium in doubt, Councilman DeCosta Hastings (District 2) has come to the rescue with an elegant solution: put it in North Nashville.

Hastings even has the perfect location for it—Metro Center.

Hastings, along with Councilman Steve Glover (District 12) has filed a resolution that removes language from the legislation that allows the stadium to be built in a location other than the Fairgrounds.

A recent report was published, showing that the 37208 zip code is lagging behind the rest of the United States. The study also shows that an economic project such as the stadium could facilitate a turnaround for the community

“We want to look for an economic boost for the North Nashville community,” said Hastings. “It has not been done in the past. I don’t know if the prior council people or mayors have even looked this way. We want to move our community into a better place.”

The idea of the stadium in North Nashville makes perfect sense.

“We have the largest amount of Metro-owned lots than any other place in this city,” said Hastings. “Why not bring an economical boost to these acres we have here.”

The land Hastings wants to put the stadium on is where there are currently football and soccer fields that can be incorporated into the design of the surrounding area of the stadium.

“Currently, the facility is being used by a lot of people that are not a part of this community. We use our tax dollars to pay for that facility,” he said.

Hastings and community members at the meeting would like to see a topnotch sports complex that can be used by the community and specifically, the Bordeaux Eagle sports teams.

“I’ve been in Bordeaux for 30 something odd years,” said neighborhood stalwart William Fox. “I’ve raised my son out here. A lot of these kids out here, their coaches I coached.”

Fox explained some of the frustrations he has had with the field that his beloved Bordeaux Eagles play on.

“We had 12 years trying to get a paved parking lot out here where Bordeaux plays,” he said. “We begged, pleaded, and even offered to pay for it ourselves. But it was against the rules. What I want to see for the youth of Nashville, in this area, is a sports complex. Everybody else has one.

“We are looking to build a topnotch sports facility where our kids can go and play sports. I have the privilege to represent a community that has the highest number of African Americans in it. The soccer team needs about 12 acres. We can fit all parts into a topnotch facility. This community needs more things than what we have now.”

A group of community advocates led by Donovan Hilton have come together and are hoping to form a Community Benefit Organization in preparation for the stadium.

“We are not trying to show any disrespect for any of the hardworking individuals who put the MLS deal together,” said Hilton, “we just want to make sure they understand that North Nashville wants to be a part of this conversation. It may not be a good fit, but we want to be at the table.”

Current Mayor David Briley, who took over for the embattled Megan Barry when she was forced to resign, has pointedly come out on the side of keeping the stadium at the Fairgrounds.

Additionally, John Ingram, the lead owner of Nashville’s Major League Soccer expansion franchise has said: “Failing to build a site at the Fairgrounds will find us in default of our agreement, expose us to significant damages and would cost the city its MLS team.”
Meanwhile, there are questions about the legality and feasibility of the deal. For starters, it is rumored that no other sites were considered.

“They pretended like we have committed ourselves to a location,” said Councilman Glover.

Access to [Metro Center] is a whole lot better than access to the fairgrounds. So if, in fact, we will be bringing 27,500 people to these games as they claim they will be, you can get them in and out of here a lot more efficiently than we can the Fairgrounds.”

Also, there is the improper spending of $135,000 from the arena budget.

Rich Riebeling, the city’s chief operating officer has apologized, saying that he will not spend any more money on the soccer stadium without prior approval.

In a letter to the Metro Council, Riebeling wrote: “approximately $135,000 has been spent on pre-design work. I was not aware that the scope of the resolution approved by the Sports Authority did not cover this preliminary work at the Fairgrounds. Clearly, I should have checked to make sure the Sports Authority had expressly authorized this work.”

“When you get to our age, you know better. You don’t do that,” said Councilman Glover. “When you’ve been in government as long as he and I have been, you don’t do that.”

Glover also questions the legality of a 99-year lease, granted for the stadium.

“Anything over a 60 month lease has to come to the Council before any deal can be entered into,” he said. “They are talking about a 99-year lease on free land that did not come to Council. It will never, ever, make sense to the taxpayers of Nashville to give away 10 free acres of land to people who have sufficient funds to buy it.”

Councilman Scott Davis (District 5), who was also at the meeting said: “I’m okay with giving 10 acres of land to a billionaire, but my problem comes when they won’t let me give it to small business owners and the hardworking men and women in North Nashville. If we are going to give away the store, why can’t we give it away to people who live in this community?”

Davis also talked about the bipartisan cooperation occurring on the stadium issue.

“What we have to understand is it’s not politics,” he said. “It’s Nashville elected officials trying to do what’s right. If we can’t give it to the North Nashville community also, then I don’t want to give it away to anyone.”