Updated: Feb 12
By Davey Shepherd (@daveytshep), host.
Throughout the opening stages of his time as Mayor, John Cooper has made one thing clear. He is going to be extremely wary of the budget, and cognizant of where tax dollars are being spent. It was a sticking point with the plan for a soccer specific stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds, and in that instance, he was able to get roughly an extra fifty million from the team by way of relieved liability on debt operation and funds for infrastructure.
While he has to be commended for getting a better deal for the city, fans of his “no tax dollars on private investments” mantra will likely be surprised to hear that he is fielding meetings with Governor Bill Lee to secure funding for future Speedway improvements.
On Tuesday morning, Jerry Caldwell of Bristol Motor Speedway gave the following statement to Speedway Soccer:
Today at 3:30 the Mayor attended a meeting with Governor Bill Lee, Butch Spyridon of the TN tourism Committee, and The Commissioner of the TN Dept. of Economic and Community Development Bob Rolfe. Representatives of Speedway Motorsports were also in attendance. Notably no representatives of Nashville Soccer Club were there.
Just looking at this on the surface, it is a troubling development. I say “looking at this on the surface” because that’s all you can do. We've never gotten a single straight forward answer about what is actually going on here. The Mayor has talked out of both sides of his mouth since he was caught off guard by the joint statement issued by NSC and MLS almost two weeks ago. He says he wants to ensure the best deal for tax payers, and then holds meetings to presumably find State funding for his pet project. He says he has concerns about parking and then does his best to ensure the creation of an event that would be far more strenuous than a Flea Market or Soccer game. Going further back to his time on the metro council, he discussed honoring the will of the people during one of his many diatribes in opposition to the stadium, meanwhile he refuses to act on a piece of legislation passed with a super majority, by multiple bodies selected by the will of those very same people.
Mayor Cooper was quoted as saying “The city of Nashville is putting in a ton of its own money; so I don’t feel badly about ever showing up and asking the state for participation. Between the revenue bonds and the land and the GO bonds and the building expo, we’re well over $300 million from the city’s perspective." The math is flawed to say the least. The revenue bonds he’s discussing (225 million of them) will be paid back in their entirety by Nashville Soccer Holdings, (the ones that I mentioned weren’t in the room earlier today). However, none of this should come as a surprise. This is after all the man who described deal as “finished business” on live television during the election process.
Steve Cavendish of The Nashville Banner has helped us work on this story over the last week and was outside of the office as the groups met. According to him things may not have gone entirely to plan for Mayor Cooper:
So in summation, we have a Mayor who is holding up a 100% privately financed deal where a local investor is ready to spend an additional $350 million on top of the $150 million he already spent. A deal that was scrutinized in the public forum for over a year before passing with a super majority. And he's doing this all in the name of proposed deal, that currently has no confirmed funding from any source, being discussed only in closed door meetings, all without the single biggest financial contributor involved in the process.
It’s all a bit cloak and dagger for something that “works for all Nashvillians”, right?