East bank site picks up steam for Sounds stadium following study's release

Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 2:06pm
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Nashville Sounds owners are zeroing in on the east bank of the Cumberland River as their preferred site for a new ballpark, and downplaying the prospects of two other locations, following the Thursday release of a stadium site evaluation study.

The Metro-commissioned report, undertaken by Kansas City-based Populous Inc., recommended three locations for a potential new minor league baseball stadium, as first reported by The City Paper:

Sites identified are: the east bank of the Cumberland, near LP Field and PSC Metals Inc., a sprawling metals scrap plant; an area northeast of the Tennessee State Capitol building that served as home to Sulphur Dell, Nashville’s long-demolished original baseball stadium; and the north Gulch area near 11th and Charlotte avenues.

Following the release of the report — which Mayor Karl Dean has called a necessary initial phase in weighing whether to build a new downtown ballpark — the Sounds ownership team, MFP, immediately began rallying behind the east bank for a new stadium, and distancing themselves from the other identified locations. They’ve pushed for a new ballpark since buying the team in 2008.

“The possibility of a site on the east bank of the river is clearly the site that has the most interest by the Sounds,” said Sounds attorney and lobbyist Tom White, adding that the Sounds must now look at financing possibilities, with help from Metro, for a new ballpark to replace outdated Greer Stadium.

“There is extremely limited interest by the Sounds in the other two sites,” White added.

Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling told The City Paper Wednesday the report is a “first step” toward a new stadium, but pointed out financing and an agreement with the Sounds could be far down the road. Dean’s administration still hasn’t fully committed to the project.

“I’m sure every site has unique issues that will have to be worked through,” Riebeling said. “It’s a long process from here, but this is a good first step.”

Dean, who has expressed interest in reviving baseball at Sulphur Dell, said the three locations are “all good sites” that should be further explored, provided it “makes sense financially.” Still, he seemed to give new credence to the east bank, calling it “really intriguing.”

“It’s a game-changer,” Dean said in an interview, referencing the PSC Metals scrap plant. “If you just take baseball out of the equation for a minute, and you think about those 80 acres and opening it up to a higher use, and having that be the front door of our city. It’s pretty exciting.

Dean cited “a couple of scenarios” for an east bank ballpark, one contingent on relocating PSC Metals elsewhere. The other option would be placing the stadium on Metro-owned land closer to LP Field, presumably on the field’s existing parking. Dean said Metro has had “conversations direct and indirect” with property owners near PSC.

“It is a home run –– to make a bad pun –– to locate the stadium there,” said Adam Liff, whose family owns approximately 25 acres of east bank land, a portion where PSC Metals sits.

“It’s not a question of if it gets redeveloped, it’s a question of when,” Liff said. “From PSC Metals’ standpoint, they’re going to see that this is an opportunity to be able to relocate, doing so with community support in a public-private partnership."

Privately, the Sounds upper brass is concerned about Sulphur Dell and the north Gulch’s far distance from Lower Broadway, the heart of downtown Nashville’s commercial district. But fans visiting a stadium on the east bank could presumably cross the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge to access the bars and restaurants on Broadway.

“We are especially excited about possible sites for a new stadium on the east bank,” Sounds owner Frank Ward said in a statement. “While there are other attractive sites, none offer as many plusses — ease of access, ready parking and proximity to downtown are just a few.

“The Sounds would be delighted to be part of Metro’s bold plan to develop and upgrade a significant piece of riverfront property,” he said.

In a conference call with media, Bruce Miller, a principal of Populous, discussed the site feasibility study, which initiated over the summer. He said the group opted against recommending one final site because of complexities with acquiring some of the properties.

The report suggests a new minor league baseball stadium would create $53.4 million in total economic output, 382 full-time equivalent jobs and $19.7 million in labor income.

Though he didn’t discuss financing mechanisms, he said it would need to have a public-private component. Miller said he spoke to some of the landowners during the process, but never approached the topic of acquisition.

Miller said all three sites “could create a great experience for minor league baseball in Nashville,” but highlighted the east bank above others. Discussing the east bank, Miller said his team of consultants analyzed land that stretches from Shelby Street bridge to the nearby interstate, near PSC Metals.

“An especially interesting site, we think is the east bank,” Miller said, noting nearby LP Field’s existing parking and proximity to the pedestrian bridge. “It has the potential to really have impact long-term on the growth of Nashville. That makes it a very intriguing place.”

For years, the owners of Nashville’s triple-A franchise have coveted the 11-acre former thermal plant location for a stadium, where a previous deal for a stadium fell apart during then-Mayor Bill Purcell’s administration. Dean has talked openly about an outdoor amphitheater being built there.

Miller, of Populous, said there are better uses for the old thermal plant site than a ballpark — even though his same company studied this location for a stadium during Purcell’s tenure.

“A lot has changed in Nashville since it was originally selected by the Sounds,” Miller said. “We think the land value, the demand for public open space, and the size of the site ... really makes it an underutilization of that site at this point in time.

“We just really don’t see that the ballpark on the thermal plant would have that same impact as one of three other potential sites,” he said.

White, the Sounds lobbyist, said his client would have been disappointed with the former thermal site’s elimination if the report had not recommended the east bank. He said the Sounds are pleased a river location is highlighted.

The study says the north Gulch site — believed to be near the temporary Greyhound bus station — offers development opportunities on a “neighborhood scale.” A new stadium here would “build off the energy of the Gulch development,” the report reads.

A new stadium on former Sulphur Dell property, the analysis says, would create “a unique fit for a ballpark, looking back at the downtown skyline.” A ballpark there could also tie into the adjacent Bicentennial Mall, the study says. Another plus is its proximity to the Germantown area, according to the report.

The Sulphur Dell location has generated considerable stadium buzz over the past year, with a group called “Friends of Sulphur Dell” pushing for a new stadium there. The Sounds, however, say they have limited interest in Sulphur Dell.

“It is the only site that will have immediate, positive economic impact on not only the Germantown area, but the city as a whole,” said At-large Metro Councilman Jerry Maynard, who supports a stadium at Sulphur Dell. “It will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

“The Sounds ownership cannot look at what’s in the best interest of the Sounds,” Maynard said. “The Sounds ownership must also consider what’s in the best interest of all of Davidson County.”

16 Comments on this post:

By: concretemike on 12/1/11 at 1:36

The report suggests a new minor league baseball stadium would create $53.4 million in total economic output, 382 full-time equivalent jobs and $19.7 million in labor income.

If you believe these numbers I have some ocean front property in Nebraska I will sell you cheap. Send your payment information to suckerborneveryminute@taxpayersaregoingtopayforthisagain.com

By: JayBee56 on 12/1/11 at 8:03

Now they know that the city is considering it, PSC can name their own price and the city will be thrilled to pay it. Meanwhile, we have roads that need repair, no sidewalks on major streets, taxpayers in Hermitage who can't get Metro Water service (after all, we can't just use public money to run a water line for these people), etc. etc. etc. I'll agree that PSC is an unsightly view from the interstate, but doesn't this administration have any concept of fiscal restraint? Do they really think we can we spend our way to prosperity?

By: Rocket99 on 12/2/11 at 7:36

I think the PSC location is the best of the three. There is already some parking in the area. Interstate access will be very easy. Should help boost the downtown economy which means more tax revenue which means Nashville will be less likely to raise property tax and more able to improve other infrastructure. I know there will be public funds used but, there will also be private funds used.

I remember all the moaning and groaning about the stadium when the Titans came to town. Not quite the boondoggle some wanted you to believe.

Getting the PSC area cleaned up will help more than the Nashville Sounds. It will help Nashville as a whole. Our city will be more attractive which will help when companies are looking for a place to locate which means more jobs.

Some people just seem unable to see past the end of their own nose on things like this.

By: MusicCity615 on 12/2/11 at 8:39

Great points Rocket99.

By: Left-of-Local on 12/2/11 at 8:44

I liked the Sulphur Dell site best, but reviewing this, it makes a strong case too. However, the MUST consider some expansion of I-24 or better mass-transit to help feed this area. Perhaps the lame-ass train can be done RIGHT and have added routes, and lower prices. Establish some offsite sports parking or a special pass for fans going to these stadiums, and that will help too.

AS USUAL, the Dean-hating crybaby sore loser (usually fans of Dozier or Briley) set will piss and moan. Never mind the vast successes of similar (but admittedly risky) ventures. They will continue to ignore that we have some of the best roads in any city, due to our frustratingly-adept road lobby. They will draw stupid comparisons between this and private-property choices concerning water lines. They will whine about "name your own price" while also whining about imminent domain. They will tell us it's all lies, and Dean is a spend-happy liberal following in the steps of others like him. All the while these armchair civic activists will CONTINUE to lack understanding of how the budgets and programs in the city work, and where funding comes from and what it is legally obligated to in the end. (Just like the idiots who think the specific taxes on tourism were available for schools instead of of the Music City Center...)

And I will continue to enjoy the nicer looking, greener, better-planned, more progressive, more metropolitan, borderline cosmopolitain, smarter growth that has helped keep me from giving up on my home town.

By: TITAN1 on 12/2/11 at 8:54

I like the east bank location.

By: MusicCity615 on 12/2/11 at 9:40

Great post Left-of-Local!!

By: localboy on 12/2/11 at 10:17

Is any of this property actually being used by the scrapyard? If so, would Metro be responsible for the toxic clean-up if the land is purchased?

By: yucchhii on 12/2/11 at 10:18

yucchhii STILL, NO mention of doing something for the HOMELESS!!! No mention of TAKING CARE OF THE ROADS IN THE WINTER TIME ETC!! Hmmmm, interesting, They city says there is NO funding to take care of the roads in the winter time..BUT, They have PLENTY $$$ for the NEW convention center that NOBODY wants and NOW a NEW BASEBALL STADIUM!! They wonder why there are car pile ups from BLACK ICE in the winter time...Hmmm INTERESTING!! Hmmmm, WHY ARE SOOO MANY "HOMELESS PEOPLE?" Why is the HOMELSS POPULATON GROWING!!! HMMmm, INTERESTING!!! HEY MR. MAYOR KARL DINK, WHY DON'T "YOU" TELL THEM!!! Think you can be "HONEST?" Lol, right!!

By: tardistraveler on 12/2/11 at 10:51

I have mixed feelings about this one. While I can understand the Sounds desire to have a venue downtown, as an East Nashville resident, I shudder at the thought of the traffic snafu that we experience during Titans and TSU games happening throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and sometimes several times a week.

It's a nightmare when the Titans play trying to get across town from East Nashville, especially if you're trying to go to South Nashville. I don't welcome the increased traffic with this one.

By: airvols on 12/2/11 at 10:51

The EastBank side makes me excited about the development possibilities. Restaurants and shops on the water with a possible marina would be great. We really need to move PCS they are a great company, but with the ne convention center coming, we need to make our best impression. Build on the East Bank!

By: fdanshep on 12/2/11 at 12:18

Let us assume that the Sounds will make a substantial investment in the development of the new park. If so, shouldn't they have a major input in the location? The interest in Sulfur Dell defies logic. The report says it will have a nice view of the Nashville skyline. This location needs more than that! There is nothing there but a farmers market and a bi-centenial mall that appears to get little use except for a limited number of locals and the occasional special event. Whether correct or not, the perception would be that it would not be safe for night games. This is pork-barrelling at its best by Mr. Maynard.

To rid the area of the scrap metal eyesore and get a park adjacent to the river and convenient to the pedestrian bridge seems the logical choice. I do not blame Mr.Ward for poo pooing the other two possibilities.

I feel confident that the research committee was told not to consider the thermal plant by the administration since Mrs. Ingram has made her wishes know that she wants an amplitheatre there. Nothing wrong with that but the city has a chance to do this right or settle for something less. Hopefully, if they do it at all, they will come up with something that the Metroplex will feel comfortable with and look forward to attending for years to come.

By: GrantHammond on 12/2/11 at 12:43

There is no way that the wealthy, Nashville families who own the PSC Metals land will sell that location. We may as well write this location off unless the city is willing to either condemn the property or take it by eminent domain.

By: GrantHammond on 12/2/11 at 12:47

As to the Sulfur Dell location, there is development planned by independent developers who are waiting for the word that the baseball stadium will locate in this area. To call the area unsafe is a mischaracterization. It is PSC that sits 2 blocks from the second worst projects in Middle TN.

By: rickmuz on 12/2/11 at 2:06

Baseball, football, basketball, hockey ETC are all team sports owned by MILLIONAIRES either directly or in association with other millionaires.

LET THE MILLIONAIRES PAY FOR THEIR VENUE!!

Does anyone know what the cost will be to DE-CONTAMINATE the area in question???
Anyone care to guess what the scrap yard will CHARGE Metro to buy it's property?

Anyone know where the scrap yard will end up (contaminating more land no doubt) when they move?

More importantly... does anyone care?

By: spooky24 on 12/3/11 at 4:31

Well, Fuhrer Dean can plan and blow money on fancy 'studies' however he is not going to use taxpayer money for another boondoggle sports arena. I know he has the council in his pocket but no one is going 'buy' this mess.

sp