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Nashville reveals plans for MLS stadium

The Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee, has announced a $250 million plan for a 27,500 seat soccer-specific stadium on the Nashville Fairgrounds.

Mayor Megan Barry and John R. Ingram, the lead investor for Nashville’s Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion bid, said a full 90% of the proposed stadium cost is funded by the MLS ownership group and revenues generated at the stadium.

Stadium funding would come from a combination of three sources: $200 million in revenue bonds, $25 million in cash from the MLS ownership group, and $25 million in Metro general obligation bonds to pay for public infrastructure associated with the stadium.

The MLS ownership group will be responsible for lease payments for the facility used for debt service of the revenue bonds and covering any construction cost overruns

Barry said the proposal puts Nashville in the best position to win an MLS franchise in December while also protecting taxpayers with a soccer-specific stadium funded almost entirely by the private sector, soccer fans and other stadium users. She said:

A Major League Soccer franchise represents an incredible opportunity for Nashville to continue its growth and take its place on the global stage.

This stadium plan and MLS bid represents significant private investment, and it safeguards taxpayers with a truly private-public partnership.

The plan calls for the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners to approve a ground lease to the Metropolitan Sports Authority. The authority would then issue revenue bonds with debt service of approximately $13 million per year.

In addition to lease payments, taxes from revenues generated at the stadium, and private investment will be used to service the debt. The bonds would only be issued if an expansion franchise is awarded to Nashville.

Metro would also propose allowing the ownership group to lease approximately 10 acres of underutilized land at the Fairgrounds to support mixed-use, mixed income development which will include affordable and workforce housing.

An economic impact study conducted by the University of Tennessee for the ownership group shows the team and stadium will create 1,886 new jobs and $77.7 million in new personal income. Stadium construction and development would create 3,572 jobs and $139.2 million in new income.

Barry added the stadium plan preserves all existing uses of the fairgrounds while bringing significant private and public investment to the site.

Along with the $25 million in infrastructure funds to support the public spaces associated with the stadium, Mayor Barry is committed to fully funding the Fairgrounds Master Plan with up to $25 million to improve the fairgrounds property and rebuild aging expo and fair facilities in addition to the $12 million already approved by the Mayor and Metro Council in FY16-17.

Ingram said the stadium plan will put Nashville in the best position to compete for a team and thanked Mayor Barry for her leadership.

We are making this investment in Nashville because we believe in this city. This is a can-do community, and we know bringing Major League Soccer here is something sports fans want. We are an international city, and soccer is the world’s sport.

The MLS stadium plan integrates the new stadium with the existing Metro masterplan for the fairgrounds.

Twelve locations expressed interest in an expansion franchises. Two winning bids are expected to be announced later this year, bringing the league to 26 teams, with two additional teams to be added in the future.

MLS expanded to 22 teams this season with the addition of Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC. LAFC, which replaces the now-defunct Chivas USA, joins next year. Miami’s expansion effort, led by David Beckham, would bring the league to 24.

In addition to Nashville the other areas that submitted bids for an expansion team include: Cincinnati, Detroit, San Antonio, Sacramento, San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.