Apr 13, 2023 - News

Titans, Cooper oppose change to stadium deal

A rendering of the proposed new Titans stadium

A rendering of the proposed new Titans stadium. Image: courtesy of the Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans and Mayor John Cooper's administration are working to undo an amendment to the new stadium deal that would funnel revenue from non-pro football events directly into the city's operating budget.

Why it matters: At stake is potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in new money for the city.

  • Critics say the proposal would jeopardize the Titans' ability to book as many concerts and sporting events as possible.

What happened: Earlier this month, Metro Councilmember Brandon Taylor proposed the amendment, which guarantees the city a portion of the rent money collected at concerts and sporting events at the new stadium. Metro's share would be up to 10% of the value of each ticket sold.

  • Backers say Taylor's proposal is a clever way for the city to get more from the new stadium. They argue the current deal doesn't do enough for the city's bottom line.
  • During a marathon council meeting on April 4, Taylor's amendment passed 19-18 despite the fact it had been overwhelmingly rejected by the committees vetting the proposal. Both the Titans and Cooper opposed it.
  • "This is a great, creative way to get some benefit into the hands of my district, into the hands of the teachers, into the hands of the police officers and firefighters in District 7 so we can get sidewalks, roads," Councilmember Emily Benedict said during the council debate.

State of play: Cooper aide Mike Jameson told council that Taylor's amendment could represent a $470 million revenue loss for the Titans, according to a "conservative" estimate.

  • That's a problem, a Titans spokesperson says, because the financing of the $2.1 billion stadium "was carefully crafted over many months."
  • "Altering one piece of the financial structure impacts the entire agreement. We look forward to continued discussion at the next meeting with council," spokesperson Kate Guerra tells Axios.

The latest: Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey sent a letter to council members Wednesday expressing concerns about Taylor's amendment, calling it "a distinct disincentive" for major sports organizations looking to hold events in Nashville.

  • A group of prominent music industry executives also sent a letter to council Wednesday opposing Taylor's amendment.

What we're watching: Metro Councilmember Jennifer Gamble is pursuing a compromise that would undo Taylor's amendment while still directing money generated by the stadium to the operating budget.

  • Gamble voted against the plan in the budget committee but then switched and supported it at the full council meeting.
  • She says she's concerned that if the Titans are forced to share 10% of the concert rent revenue with the city, it will lead either to fewer events coming to Nashville or significantly higher ticket prices for Nashville residents.
  • "I think there's a compromise that still accomplishes what this amendment sets out to do, but doesn't affect our entertainment industry," she says.

"Our office heard from several council members concerned about the negative impact of [Taylor's amendment], and we expect there will be a solution that fits within the financial parameters of the agreement," Cooper spokesperson TJ Ducklo tells Axios.

What's next: The critical second vote on the financing plan is scheduled for April 18. If the plan advances, a third and final vote would likely take place at a special meeting later this month.


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