For eight years, former Mayor Bill Purcell cultivated an atmosphere that supporters of professional sports believed was unsympathetic to the teams here.
In that atmosphere, Nashville’s pro teams felt like Purcell constantly scrutinized them, giving them a hard time at every turn because he didn’t much care for the taxpayer-supported deals his predecessor Phil Bredesen forged to bring the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators to the city.
Purcell had his adherents in the community who helped him get elected, emboldening him.
However the Predators situation works out, one issue is clear — that atmosphere persists with verve in the community at large, even with a new mayor. There are many folks who simply think that money spent on pro sports would be better used for education or some other essential Metro service.
Certainly, their argument holds some merit.
But based on the logic used in opposing tax dollars for pro sports, Metro should never use taxpayer money to support any quality-of-life project or program. That would mean nixing public support for the arts or even greenways and parks.
To take it a step further, did the city need new and refurbished courthouses? Did the city really need a fancy new Courthouse Square with a parking garage under it?
To get picky, we could strip the budgets down to bare essentials and the mayor and Metro Council could operate out of leased office space.
Dissent is not evenly shared
There wasn’t nearly the same level of dissent when Purcell cut a sweet deal for the Schermerhorn Symphony Center’s downtown site and then Metro committed $15 million to help pay for construction.
Metro used taxpayer dollars in helping build the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. There are plenty of other arts projects Metro has supported. Then look at the tens of millions being spent on constructing greenways or parks.
Few quibble over public support for the arts, although the “Ghost Ballet” on the East Bank is a head-scratcher. There’s no denying that the new symphony center is an excellent addition to downtown and improves Nashville’s cultural landscape.
There’s even less argument over spending tax dollars on greenways or parks. Parks and the arts are deemed quality-of-life necessities for a city, the combination of tranquility and culture for taxpayers.
A city’s economic development, its ability to attract or retrain employees and companies, depends a good bit on quality-of-life factors. And pro sports fits in that realm, as many economic developers will say.
No cultural contribution?
But as the disdainful thinking in some circles goes, pro sports are not “culture” and do not contribute to overall well being of society.
Furthermore, pro sports involve businesses run by people seeking to make a profit whether on an annual basis or when the teams are sold. That’s abhorrent to some folks and therefore pro sports are not worthy of any level of public subsidy or to be treated in the same way as other quality-of-life aspects of a city.
Interestingly, Councilman Michael Craddock notes the millionaires trying to tap into taxpayers as they try renegotiating the Sommet Center lease. But what about the billionaires who could have built the symphony center many times over by themselves, yet get public dollars?
It would be interesting to see an analysis on how the public dollars spent per local taxpayer using the greenways or going to the symphony compares to the dollars spent per local taxpayer who attends pro sports events.
It also would be interesting to see which brings in more people from outside Nashville to spend money here.
A good bet would be that professional sports perform better.