New Titans stadium to get a public hearing before a final vote next week

Before taxpayers commit to the largest public subsidy for a sports stadium, the Metro Nashville Council will hold a four-hour hearing open for public comment.

By: - April 19, 2023 1:39 pm
Nissan Stadium, current home of the National Football League's Tennessee Titans. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Nissan Stadium, current home of the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans. (Photo: John Partipilo)

In the early hours of Wednesday, the Tennessee Titans’ new $2.1 billion stadium cleared its second of three hurdles from the Metro Nashville Council. 

The vote was 25 for the stadium and 11 against. (Note: See vote breakdown at the bottom)

But before the council’s final vote on April 25, the body will hold a public hearing on the same day for stadium proponents and opponents to voice their views. 

A similar attempt to trigger a public hearing two weeks ago failed by a single vote. This time only seven council members — Jonathan Hall, Tonya Hancock, Kevin Rhoten, Mary Carolyn Roberts, Robert Swope, Brett Withers and Zach Young — stood in the way, while 26 supported a hearing. 

Broad strokes of the stadium deal have been in place for over a year. The State of Tennessee will contribute $500 million, Metro Nashville $760 million and Titans/NFL $840 million to the multibillion-dollar project. At $1.26 billion, it’s the most expensive public subsidy for a sports stadium ever.

The public has had some opportunity to comment on these aspect deals during several public hearings held by a council committee last year. But the latest hearing will give residents one last chance to weigh in. 

A poll released by Vanderbilt University Wednesday showed 52% of respondents in Nashville were against the deal. 

Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s administration and Titans negotiated the new stadium deal after a report they commissioned showed building a new stadium was more cost-effective than remodeling the current one, which they said would cost an estimated $1.8 billion.

Several council members and economists have cast doubt on these claims, pointing to remodels of stadiums built around the same time as the current facility costing significantly less. 

To pay for the stadium, Metro and the State of Tennessee agreed to raise the city’s hotel-motel tax by 1% and trap a significant portion of the sales tax revenue from the stadium and the surrounding 130 acres in a special fund to pay for it. 

By using sales and a hotel-motel tax to pay for the stadium, the deal will require 21 votes to pass the council rather than the usual 27 votes.

Metro officials are optimistic this will prevent the city from raising other taxes to cover the stadium costs, but it also has the potential to trap tax revenue. 

The Titans’ portion of the money will come from personal cash, personal seat license sales and an NFL contribution. In the past, the NFL has contributed $200 million to other stadium projects. 

Personal seat licenses have been known to generate additional revenue; the Las Vegas Raider’s new stadium brought in $549 million in seat license fees. 

Titans threaten to spike deal over rent changes

The biggest contention at the second hearing was over an amendment by council member Brandon Taylor. The amendment restructures the team’s rent from $3 for every ticket sold at non-NFL events to a 3% fee that would eventually rise to 10% over the course of seven years. 

It would also direct this money into the city’s general fund, bringing in $470 million by some estimates over 30 years. 

Lobbyists for the team and concert promoters fought tooth and nail to remove this amendment, eventually pushing through their own amendment to establish a 3% fee for tickets over $100 and $3 for those under. 

The new amendment, crafted by council member Jennifer Gamble, also exempted many events from the fee that weren’t in the original amendment, such as college events like the SEC football championship, Final Four and Music City Bowl, as well as any CMA event, ACM event, Grammy Awards and WWE special event. 

Metro officials warned the council if they didn’t pass Gamble’s amendment, the entire Titans stadium deal would fail. 

The council passed the amendment by a 23-13 vote. 

Gamble initially wanted this money to go into the Nashville Impact Fund, but an approved amendment from council member Freddie O’Connell would direct it into the city’s main fund.

Estimates are it could generate $120 million over 30 years. 

How the Metro Council voted on the final stadium deal:

Voting in favor:

  • Burkley Allen
  • Tom Cash
  • Thom Duffel
  • Erin Evans
  • Jennifer Gamble
  • Tonya Hancock
  • Jonathan Hall
  • Gloria Hausser
  • Sharon Hurt
  • Courtney Johnston
  • Antoinette Lee
  • Bob Nash 
  • Russ Pulley
  • Kevin Rhoten
  • Mary Carolyn Roberts
  • John Rutherford
  • Joy Styles 
  • Zulfat Suara
  • Robert Swope
  • Jeff Syracuse
  • Kyonzte Toombs
  • Nancy VanReece
  • Tanaka Vercher
  • Brett Withers
  • Zach Young

Voting against:

  • Emily Benedict
  • Russ Bradford
  • Angie Henderson
  • Bob Mendes
  • Freddie O’Connell
  • Sean Parker
  • Delisha Porterfield
  • Sandra Sepulveda
  • Colby Sledge
  • Brandon Taylor
  • Ginny Welsch

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Adam Friedman
Adam Friedman

Adam Friedman is a reporter with the Tennessee Lookout. He has a particular love for data and using numbers to explain all kinds of topics. If you have a story idea, he'd love to hear it. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 615-249-8509.