Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat, joined several other local dignitaries on Monday to break ground for the $65 million taxpayer funded baseball stadium that will be the new home of the minor league Nashville Sounds.
Frank Ward, co-owner of the Sounds, was understandably delighted that the city will pay for his team’s new ballpark. He told Nashville’s WSMV TV at the groundbreaking “[w]hen my partners and I purchased the Sounds five years ago, we had a vision of bringing the country’s best minor league baseball park to this city, and we are excited to formally begin that process with today’s groundbreaking.”
Ward added that “[t]his state-of-the-art ballpark will be something that Nashville can be proud of – a safe, family-friendly destination for fans of all ages.”
Mayor Dean was equally upbeat about the taxpayer funded stadium. “With this ballpark and the planned surrounding developments,” he said, “the energy and excitement of our downtown will be connected to some of our most vibrant urban neighborhoods.”
Dean concluded that “[s]olidifying the decision for me was the economic benefit I knew this project would create for the north side of downtown.”
Though the Nashville-Davidson County Metro Council overwhelmingly approved the plan to borrow $65 million to build the stadium by a 29 to 7 vote on December 10, many skeptics scoff at the purported economic benefits of the project to anyone but the owners of the Nashville Sounds.
At the time, Mayor Dean said the proceeds of the $65 million bond offering would be used as follows: $37 million for stadium construction costs, $23 million for land acquisition, and $5 million for interest expense.
But three weeks after the Metro Council approved the stadium deal, its total cost increased by $5.9 million, from $65 million to $70.9 million. The increase came in stadium construction costs. Mayor Dean had promised those costs would be no more than $37 million, but when the final bids came in from construction vendors, the lowest one was for $42.9 million, a full $5.9 million over budget.
The Nashville Tennessean reported on December 31 that construction bids “came in well above the price tag the council agreed to as part of a $65 million municipal bond issue, which also would cover $23 million in land acquisition costs and $5 million in interest.”
One of the two firms who submitted final bids to construct the stadium, “said it could build the stadium for more than $43.4 million.” The second firm’s bid “was about 1 percent lower at $42.9 million.”
Metro Councilman Charlie Tygard, who cast one of the seven votes in opposition to the stadium deal, blamed Mayor Dean’s rushed approach to approval for the overrun. “It relates to the whole issue of how quickly the process went,” he told the Tennessean. Dean first proposed the stadium financing plan in November, barely a month before the Metro Council’s December 10 vote.
The Nashville Sounds are a Triple A minor league team who play in the Pacific Coast League. They are affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Two other Pacific Coast League teams play in baseball stadiums that have been built or purchased recently with taxpayer funds. The El Paso Chihuahuas will open the 2014 season in their new $64 million stadium built by the taxpayers of the city of El Paso, Texas. The Memphis Redbirds will open the 2014 season in AutoZone Park, which was built in 2000, but was purchased by the city of Memphis for $19.5 million earlier this month.
Image Source: Mayor of Nashville’s office