Awaiting Court Decision Cooper Hangs Tough on Stadium Deal

NASHVILLE, TN – Mayor John Cooper met with soccer officials at the Major League Soccer headquarters in New York on Thursday, January 30. He was offered some inducements to green light the demolition of Expo buildings at the Fairgrounds so a soccer stadium could be built there. He wasn’t persuaded.

Nashville SC released a statement Thursday afternoon which said in part: “For the past four months, Nashville SC has worked to make the stadium deal even better and has proposed a number of new solutions to satisfy his concerns. Even with these proposed new solutions, the Mayor today refused to commit to move forward with the demolition and the approved stadium plan”.

Meanwhile back in Nashville, Chancellor Ellen Hobbes Lyle grilled lawyers about opposing motions for summary judgments in the soccer stadium case that has dragged on for months.

Lyle said she would issue a ruling early next week and tentatively scheduled a trial date for October 2020. She expects one side will appeal her decision, whatever it is, and anticipates the case could be remanded to her court for the second time.

In July 2019, Save Our Fairgrounds won their appeal of Lyle’s earlier decision to dismiss the suit. (See Yellow Card)

Lyle asked Metro’s lawyer, Lora Fox, about parking spaces—how many and where they would be and how many would be set aside for events that were not soccer games.

“We have shown in law and in fact that with parking and the locations of new buildings Metro has continued existing uses,” Fox said.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Roberts countered, “Can we have a stadium and the state fair? That’s the question everybody is asking. We can see the plan but there is no place for the fair or anyone to park.”

Roberts showed Lyle a rendering of the Fairgrounds plan with a soccer stadium, racetrack, and Expo buildings. In that drawing, there is precious open space left for anything else, much less a state fair.

Permanent structures on 107 acres of public property, with 10 acres in the middle cut out for a private development, is at the heart of this case. Lyle will have to rule if open space for a fair is in the public interest.

Lyle could rule that a private development does not have an “educational or amusement” purpose and under the City Charter that would kill that part of the stadium deal.

The privatizing of public land would certainly make Nashville SC owners millions of dollars. As the Tribune has reported, the stadium construction contracts have been rife with corruption. (See Fixed)

Lyle could also rule that all of the funds from any lease of the property must go through the Fair Board. That, too, would likely kill the stadium deal because Nashville SC gets half the parking fees for events unrelated to soccer.

She could also rule the Fair Board lacks the authority to surplus any Fairgrounds property although Metro claims the 10 acres was properly surplused. Lyle may not do any of those things. This is a developing story.

Nashville SC will kick off the 2020 season at a night game in Nissan Stadium February 29, 2020.

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