Financial columnist pans GOP plan to slash Nashville convention center bond funding

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) wields the gavel during a floor session on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Joe Mysak, a municipal market columnist for Bloomberg news, is blasting a proposal by Tennessee Republican lawmakers to eliminate a revenue stream for Nashville to pay off the $560 million balance on bonds issued to build the city’s new convention center.

“The municipal bond market is no place for political theater,” Mysak writes. “That’s because the market can’t discern between tragedy, comedy and farce. To municipal bond buyers, it’s all drama, and one thing they know is, they don’t like it. Once politicians start playing games with credit, the cost of borrowing in the municipal market is going to go higher.”

The move to ban the capital city from using privilege taxes to pay back the bonds comes after the Nashville Metro Council last year rejected a proposal for the city to host the Republican presidential convention in 2024.

“If Metro has no interest in properly promoting convention tourism, they no longer require the special tax authority granted to them for that purpose,” McNally said about the bill, which is being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin).

Mysak writes in the column he doesn’t think Tennessee can change its legal obligation to bondholders in the manner laid out by the bill. The Bass, Berry & Sims law firm, the city’s bond counsel, didn’t return Bloomberg’s calls for comment.

“For some very short-term political fun, taxpayers had better steel themselves for some financial pain,” according to the columnist.

“We’ll see how this plays out, but no good is going to come from it,” he said.

Titans release renderings of proposed new $2.1B stadium

The Tennessee Titans are releasing renderings of what the NFL team’s new domed stadium would look like if the Metro Council in Nashville approves issuing $760 million in bonds to fund the local share of the $2.1 billion project. The state legislature has previously committed $500 million in bonds and the team, NFL, and season ticket holders would cover the $840 million remainder.

Here is the release from the Titans:

The Tennessee Titans today shared renderings of its potential new stadium, which would encompass 1.7 million square feet with a capacity of approximately 60,000. The renderings follow last week’s announcement that the team and the City of Nashville had reached a proposed agreement for a new, enclosed stadium, which will be discussed by Metro Council and the Sports Authority in coming weeks.

“We envision a potential new stadium that makes our community proud and enhances the reputation of our great city and state,” said Titans president and CEO Burke Nihill. “We’re focused on designing a stadium capable of hosting a prestigious international event on a Sunday and a steady flow of impactful community programming later that same week. This is a building that would serve Nashville and Tennessee for generations.”

The stadium designs were created by MANICA, a Kansas City-based architecture firm that has worked on projects such as Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and Chase Center in San Francisco. The team commissioned MANICA to produce the concepts in order to inform site planning and cost estimates.

Hastings, a Nashville-based architecture firm, also participated in the design work, with a particular emphasis on reflecting Nashville’s spirit and character, and a focus on seamlessly integrating the building into the proposed neighborhood surrounding the stadium.

The stadium architecture is inspired by the city of Nashville and is planned to be complementary to the broader East Bank development plan led by the City. The design gave specific attention to multi-purpose function, in order to maximize the number and types of events that could take place in the building.

Key features of the design include:

— Exterior terraces and porches with panoramic views of Nashville that will serve as social space during event days

— A circular-shaped, high-tech ETFE translucent roof

— Improved sight lines for all spectators through diverse viewing experiences

— High-tech and sustainable materials throughout the building

Other features of the building not pictured include a 12,000 sq. ft. dedicated community space that could be utilized year-round for educational opportunities, non-profit events and other community-minded purposes.

The new stadium will set a goal of achieving a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold certification. The Titans have not yet selected an architect of record for the building. A full architectural design process would begin at a later date.

What the heck is going on with the Nashville race track? The Banner has the answers

(Image credit: Fairgrounds Speedway)

When Nashville Mayor John Cooper first proposed overhauling the Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, the project was supposed to require the city to back $50 million in revenue bonds. After a series of delays, inflation and growing construction costs have now doubled that figure. So is the rehab of the historic NASCAR site now getting underway? Not quite. Here’s what The Banner’s Steve Cavendish writes in a deep dive today:

Multiple sources familiar with the negotiations say the deal has been “95 percent” completed for a year. A press release from Cooper in December 2020 anticipated NASCAR racing as soon as this year. In March 2021, Metro signed a letter of intent with BMS to reach a deal on the fairgrounds, and Cooper said that “I look forward to working with the Fair Board and the Metro Council in the months ahead” to complete an agreement “to bring back high-level racing at no cost to taxpayers.”

An announcement was made at the 2021 NASCAR Banquet this past December that the two sides had agreed to a financial framework. .

“This administration has a case of the slows,” said one source. Another called it a “plodding, hand-wringing group.” Cooper supporters say it’s important to reach the right deal, not the fastest one.

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