Metro begins search for firm to handle ballpark feasibility study

Monday, May 2, 2011 at 10:05pm

Metro began its search Monday for an outside firm that will conduct a feasibility study of potential sites for a new Nashville Sounds ballpark, making official a course of action the city’s finance director has said Mayor Karl Dean’s administration would pursue.

Metro’s Purchasing Department issued a request for proposals Monday for qualified firms that would determine the most suitable location for a new downtown baseball stadium, along with a park’s optimal size, seating and suite configuration, and ancillary development opportunities. The study also plans to determine a cost estimate for a new ballpark, identify the best way to finance a facility and assess potential economic development opportunities that can result from the stadium –– both directly and indirectly.

Taking the lead on the study from Metro’s end is Jim Fyke, former Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner who recently joined the Metro Department of Finance.

“The first step needs to be an analysis of where a stadium could be, looking at all the potential sites that have been discussed, doing an analysis of the sites and coming in with a recommendation of where it should be built,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling told The City Paper in February.

See related story here.

The Nashville Sounds ownership, MFP Real Estate, is hoping to move from dilapidated Greer Stadium, and prefers the 11-acre former thermal plant site near Lower Broadway for a new ballpark. Last year, they upped their new stadium pitch, tapping veteran lobbyist Tom White and public relations specialist John Seigenthaler Jr. to join their effort. The Sounds previous ownership eyed the same site before a stadium deal fell part in 2007 during the then-Mayor Bill Purcell administration.

“We welcome an independent study of the best place to build a new ballpark in Nashville,” Frank Ward, principal Sounds owner, has said in the past. “We have always made it clear we think the thermal site is the best location.”

Other sites bandied around include state-owned land northeast of the Tennessee State Capitol that served as home to the city’s old park Sulphur Dell; SoBro properties near the under-construction Music City Center; and locations along the east bank of the Cumberland River.

"We want a study that truly analyzes the sites without any predetermined ideas," Fyke said. "We want an independent study done."

Metro’s RFP outlines a timeframe whereby all proposals from firms are due June 10. The document states the firm is to be under contract “ASAP.” From there, the length to conduct the study is undetermined.

A new downtown ballpark appears to be setting up as a potential second term project for Dean –– if he’s re-elected and chooses to put his political clout behind it. Accordingly, any stadium proposal would go before a newly elected Metro Council. 

The firm’s work is to fall under three phases. The first phase is determining the project’s overall budget, including land costs and stadium construction; analyzing the impact of a stadium on existing neighborhoods; exploring non-baseball uses of a stadium; and studying traffic and parking issues related to the stadium, among other duties. The firm is then to rank the different sites based on these and other considerations.

The second phase consists of utilizing other consultants for potential market studies, traffic studies and civil engineering analyses. The firm would also produce conceptual designs for sites under final consideration.

The third phase zeroes in on the final recommended stadium site, providing a schedule for the project and final overall cost and budget. 

29 Comments on this post:

By: spooky24 on 5/3/11 at 5:30

As if this city was not facing enough debt on make or break public projects-now this. If nothing else his royal highness is politically predictable and savvy . He know putting a huge risk like this ballpark in the highest crime area in the county(Sulphur Dell) is a political nightmare. This independent study-which the outcome is a far gone conclusion-will allow him to appease his base by showing them the phoney study favors a different location-getting him off the hook. I wonder if he is aware that some people in the city can see right through his political playbook and are not the sheep he is used too.

I doubt he cares one way or the other.


By: Kosh III on 5/3/11 at 5:58

If the Sounds want a new playground THEY can pay for it.

By: TITAN1 on 5/3/11 at 6:26


By: Community-carl-... on 5/3/11 at 6:36

Hey Nashville taxpayers:

Hold on to your wallets and pocketbooks.....Dean has another wild and expensive ride planned for us......

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 6:52

Find it interesting that Deano is running through the legal RFP process on the selection of this consultant. Not something he has a history of doing for projects. But then again he had pre-decided he wanted the convention center and the fairgrounds destroyed.

Baseball fans are about to be disappointed if they had their heart set on the thermal site. All sales tax and tax increment set asides have been promised (some even double promised if you look at the Omni deal). Also the bond rating agencies let Metro know that the convention center is the last such risky debt Metro will take on for a long time.

What does this all mean? The stadium if it even is built will have to be built where it can directly pay it's own debt. It will have to be in a good place of business and be affordable. The thermal site fails this requirement since downtown minors PCL stadiums struggle with attendance after a couple of years. If the Sounds owners want the site they will have to fund the construction without Metro help. The most Nashville will be able to do is give them the land and maybe a property tax deal.

Move outside of downtown and construction costs decrease tremendously. Costs will be low enough to justify public money. As PCL attendance shows these stadiums draw more people and are more likely to pay for themselves.

Of course the Omaha team built their own stadium with their own money and did not have to beg for a new stadium.

By: Kosh III on 5/3/11 at 6:53

What's so humorous Titan?
The 60 grand we pay Fyke each year?
The hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money to be paid to a campaign donor to "study" the issue?
The millions in taxpayer funded welfare checks to be paid to a private business?

By: nashwatcher on 5/3/11 at 7:19

Sulphur Dell would be a mistake, with limited potential and attendance, in my opinion. Easy access is huge, which in my mind means thermal site or sobro would be much better choices...families coming to the newly developed riverfront, tourists, etc would be able to go to a game on a whim, which I believe would really help drive attendance...

That said I'm inclined to believe the thermal site has a 'greater use'...amphitheater with development to keep the streetscape active feels like a good idea, imo, for this location...

By: uptownnashville on 5/3/11 at 7:55

Need to check your stat's Spooky, the highest crime area is by the current Greer Stadium. Sulphur Dell and North Nashville has seen a major decrease in crime over the past 5 years thanks to hard work by Metro Police. What's not to love about Sulphur Dell, did you not see the images from the Nashville Civic Design Studio? You can't ignore North Nashville forever. Its the only place in town where development is thriving.

By: RTungsten on 5/3/11 at 8:04

If they build it downtown, they better have a decent plan for economical parking. And by economical, I mean less than $20 per "special event night" parking. Maybe they could use the Titans lots and have people walk over the river?

By: TITAN1 on 5/3/11 at 8:34

Kosh, laughter is good for the soul!

By: airvols on 5/3/11 at 8:57

This project needs to go on the other side of the river in East Nashville by LP field. The parking is already there, and parks are being developed. It would displace PCS and clean up that site. North Nashville would be a mistake, It's not central to the activity of downtown. That site should be developed into more Condo's and Apartments for the downtown core. I do believe the funding should be the responsibility of the Sounds, the city could give them tax breaks and maybe a land deal. I could not support any funding of taxpayer money to sustain the project.

By: SFPredsFan on 5/3/11 at 9:04

@RTungsten...I went to over 20 Preds games this season (and counting) and always park for free(as do 1,000's of others) at the R Lot and overflow lots by LP Field and walk across Shelby Street Bridge. A total of 4 blocks from Bridgestone. I'm sure that would be the plan for a new ball park anywhere in SoBro. All Metro needs to do to help pay for it is to incorporate an amphitheater for concerts while the Sounds are on away games. Since all of the restaurants, hotels, parking, and attractions are already on the SoBro side of dwtn, it would be stupid to put it at Sulpher Dells. Whose going to build anything over there for fans before/after games for only 6 months of biz on the average of a few nights/week? Plus it's still an ugly and a dumpy area of Nashville. But Metro MUST include a music venue. Every dwtn minor league stadium across the country has been successful. Any doubts about that, look up the attendance numbers of Sacramento, Memphis, etc on PCL Baseball website.

By: RTungsten on 5/3/11 at 9:14

@SFPredsFan: I wasn't aware there was free parking in the Titans lot. Thanks for that info. When I was volunteering for the East Nashville Beer Festival in April, the Titans lots were $5 and I felt that was reasonable.

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 9:30

Curiously there are people here who still think that downtown activities are important to minor league baseball fans even though the facts show otherwise. Downtown locations hurt minor league baseball teams.

Also you are making a serious business plan error by basing a site on the convenience to tourists instead of actual Nashvillians. Downtown Nashville is not convenient for most of Nashville's families. Minor league baseball depends on convenience, not having the customers be willing to put up with hassles. Major Leagues baseball will often times make people willing to put up with some inconvenience, minor league not so much. Tourists will never account for more than a a few dozen people in the stands of a minor league game.

Major league sports (Preds, Titans, etc) = worth the hassle of a downtown location
Pacific Coast League AAA baseball = not worth the hassle, even if parking is "just across the river"

See the attendance in the PCL for the last 2 years. The downtown teams are bleeding at the turnstiles while the ones smart enough to build cheaper and smarter outside of downtown are making money and leading the league. Memphis is seeing attendance half of what is necessary to pay the loans. Half! The people visualizing and selling 10,000 people wondering around the bars and honky tonks on a game night are smoking some hard stuff.

By: BigPapa on 5/3/11 at 9:41

If they were going to put it on the thermal site would they need this study? I think not, that deal was already done, studied, and botched by the old Sounds ownership. IMHO Dean is either looking to move the stadium or kill the idea of a new one.
I'd like to see it over where the PCL Metals dump is now, but then that's a functional private business and they have their right to be there. But it sure is ugly...

By: belmonttau on 5/3/11 at 10:08

Please develop our riverfront. There is no reason to play second seat to Chattanooga. If the Sounds want a new stadium they should pay for it. This would be a colossal waste of money and would do little to benefit the city and development. Whereas downtown riverfront development and greenspace would revitalize a wasted opportunity for healthy substantive growth.

By: gid on 5/3/11 at 10:18

Purcell had a study completed already, what has changed in 4 yrs? Why spend another 100+K. I bet Dean 'study' puts the stadium where he wants it.

also, regarding parking, I attend all the Preds game and always park for free. If a person is willing to walk a few blocks it can be done.

By: BigPapa on 5/3/11 at 10:22

This is a good read. I wish our govt would pay attention to this.

By: SFPredsFan on 5/3/11 at 11:02

Comments that dwtn is NOT the place to put the park are just plain wrong. Dwtn Nashville is the center of activity and 3 freeways spoke off in 6 directions. Only the NW and SW sides of town are less populated than the Metro area as a whole, but Clarksville and the military families would count that NW would make dwtn a perfect site. This will be a tourist draw also, if a music venue is included to replace Starwood. We don't need another study to see the obvious that SoBro or across the river is the best option.

By: Nashvillebeach on 5/3/11 at 11:23

Great,, one more place for people to sit & watch other people play sports.
Sports = when you move - Entertainment= when you sit & watch
As Nashville get fatter ,we spend more tax dollars on entertainment venues .
I ,guess we are trying to help HCA build business. Social Distortion ?

By: slzy on 5/3/11 at 12:00

what about a study to build bus shelters at more stops,MTA and MNPS?

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 12:27

PredsFan if you are looking to place this in the geographic center of Nashville in an area with high population then downtown is the LAST place on the list. The current stadium is situated closer to more people than the riverfront is, and is just as difficult to get in and out of. Downtown has the smallest actual population of any area in the urban services district, ranking even below the quadrants you listed. And as mentioned in countless studies, minor league baseball has never, ever been a tourists draw. The only place one could even argue is the Kodak/Sevierville park and even that is built well away from actual tourist areas and a downtown area. Both the Smokies and the Lookouts show very few tourists coming into their facilities.

Build this cheaper and closer to the actual bedrooms of the area. Do not turn away baseball by making it just another public downtown redevelopment failure. LANDPORT HO! CHURCH STREET CENTER HO! ROLLING MILL CONDOS HO!

By: TITAN1 on 5/3/11 at 1:47

Jeff, I asked you before if you want it next to your house and you never replied back. You see, if they put it in a neighborhood then the neighbors would complain because they were there FIRST!

By: RTungsten on 5/3/11 at 2:33

You can put it by my house, the tax 20+ year breaks will be nice when Dean gets done with us.

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 2:34

Yes I did, you just didn't check back apparently I said there was a property within about 1000 yards that I actually recommended to city and sounds officials several years ago (the first time they were wasting effort on downtown). It would be perfect with interstate and household access and lots of room for parking. There is not room right next door since I am surrounded by houses but the closest, empty land would make a great location.

the Sounds and their little league fans knew the situation in Memphis was on its way down several years ago, that is why they were rushing threw the project then. Now that the Redbirds stadium boom has busted they can no longer use Memphis as an example off what to aspire to.

Where oh where is the great downtown PCL stadium we can use to extract millions of dollars in cash, land, and tax rebates from Metro coffers? The shining light for all Urbanistas, Portland, gave up their downtown stadium for soccer instead. They were last place in attendance anyway. Memphis, struggling to average 6k in a stadium built and financed at 11K. OKC? Believe it or not, behind lil' ol Greer.

All hail the Branch Rickey III inspired PCL building boom. Everybody is right back where they started. Does that mean he will require replacement of the new stadiums every 10 years just to keep that new stadium smell going forever?

By: TITAN1 on 5/3/11 at 3:17

Little League fans? There you go again. You are like some others who post here, if it isn't something you enjoy, it shouldn't exist.

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 7:20

You weren't paying attention. The fans are the little league ones. When talking about the actual baseball I used better terms.

By: BigPapa on 5/4/11 at 9:28

nashville is past minor league bball, wraslin' at the FG, and small time has been racin' at that little track.
The Mayor needs to just state that. "Nashville we're grown up, no need for these things we had to settle with before. We are NOT Jackson TN! Minor league ball is not what we aspire to."

By: JeffF on 5/4/11 at 1:14

Amen Papa (on some of it anyway).

Trying to keep up with Louisville, St Louis, Cleveland, and Portland were all used to get a convention center, regardless of how poorly those places are doing in that racket or how odd it is that we would want to keep up with that particular list of world-beaters.

Now....we must keep up with Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Indianapolis? And we must do it by substituting the wonderful story of major league stadiums. Oh how I like to go to Baltimore/ Chicago/Boston and go to the bars before a major league game, why can't the Sounds have that? Der, those are major league teams and the Sounds and Nashville are a minor league one.

Damn the logic, statistics, and history! Full speed ahead with a downtown, riverfront baseball stadium! Nashville deserves to have its minor league team playing in a Camden Yards! We can can succeed doing this. The 100% failure rate is meaningless. We are Nashville and this is AAA baseball!