Ingram Sends His Lawyers Into Fairgrounds Lawsuit

This is a picture of the stadium Nashville SC wants to play in. Plaintiffs ask, “Why does it have to be built at the Fairgrounds?”

NASHVILLE, TN – Chancellor Ellen Hobbes Lyle is letting some Chicago lawyers intervene in the preservationist lawsuit at the Fairgrounds. Four out of state and one local attorney, William N. Helou, are representing Nashville Soccer and Walsh Management. They sat at the defense table Friday, February 21, with Metro lawyers Lora Fox and Catherine Pham.

Facing that impressive squad of imported legal muscle, sat sole practitioner Jim Roberts in blue sports jacket, off-white khaki slacks, and brown loafers. His outfit didn’t scare off MLS attorneys but Roberts told the Tribune they should worry about getting what they asked for.

“It opens them up to a lot of discovery and things that we might not be able to get otherwise,” he said.

For example, Chancellor Lyle asked soccer attorney John Hamill if the franchise agreement required the team to play at the Fairgrounds. At first Hamill said yes but then backpedalled and said he didn’t remember the exact language in the agreement.

“It’s a pretty simple question. Why can’t anybody answer that question?” asked Roberts. On September 4, 2018 Ingram told the Tribune it was then Mayor Megan Barry who insisted the team play at the Fairgrounds, not the MLS. (see Council nixes vote)

We do not know what the franchise agreement says. Soccer attorney Hamill implied they would ask the court to keep it secret. As the Tribune has reported, the stadium deal was hatched behind closed doors and involved several metro departments corruptly enabling stadium construction contracts.

And last week we told you how Mayor John Cooper was essentially browbeaten into cutting a new stadium deal by the same old boys network that tried to shove private development on historic Fort Negley. (see Shaved)

Meanwhile, the team is playing at Titan’s stadium that was designed for soccer as well as pro football. Team spokesperson Zach Hunt said it would take millions to make it a good soccer venue.

“They still think they can just run over Nashville. They’re not going to have this resolved anytime soon. It’s just wishful thinking on their part,” said Roberts.

Roberts will be back in court March 13 seeking an injunction. The preservationists don’t want the old Expo buildings torn down and they don’t want any new construction to begin without a referendum.

“The injunction hearing is going to be based on the Metro Charter and the BL2014-667 ordinance that says they have to have a voter referendum,” Roberts said. (see Pressure)

Roberts said if Lyle doesn’t order a referendum vote, Fairground plaintiffs will make an expedited appeal to the Appeals Court.

“Time is our friend. Time is not their friend. That is why they are here today because they see this whole thing falling apart,” he said, adding, “At this rate it’s going to last for years.”

On Thursday, February 20, the soccer legal team filed a three-page memorandum in Lyle’s court. It listed seventeen documents “that effectuate the governing terms of the overall agreement between Metro and Nashville Soccer and Walsh Management.” Most of them were already in the court record.

Noticeably absent from the list, however, was the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) signed by John Ingram and Odessa Kelly, Executive Director of Stand Up Nashville. The CBA was the reason Ingram said he could not agree to a 100-ft buffer between the racetrack and the stadium. He wrote Cooper a letter in late January.

“We believe keeping parcel 8C out of this plan would mean we could not fulfill our commitments under the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). That is unworkable. We intend to honor our commitments to the community,” wrote Ingram.

In the following weeks a campaign to pressure Cooper ensued. And in their joint announcement February 13, both men referenced the CBA.

“The revised deal eliminates taxpayer and budget burden for stadium construction while keeping in place the first Community Benefits Agreement in Tennessee,” the statement said.

What was so important last week isn’t so special one week later. Soccer lawyers dropped the CBA from issues they consider relevant to their case and will probably not be defending it in the upcoming trial. Plaintiffs have long argued the CBA was just a public relations ploy to get Metro Council to approve the stadium.

The council voted down a measure last Tuesday requiring a 100-ft. buffer between the racetrack entrance and any parking structure at the Fairgrounds. “All of the city’s parking facilities for sports venues operate under Homeland Security protocol. I don’t see a need to legislate that protocol when it is already being followed,” said District 7 Councilwoman Emily Benedict.

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