Sounds may find new home on riverfront after all

Monday, November 9, 2009 at 11:59am

Conversations about building a new downtown ballpark have picked up between Metro and Nashville Sounds ownership, signaling renewed communication after talks deteriorated during the previous mayoral administration.

According to Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling, preliminary discussions have centered on three locations: the 11-acre old thermal plant site near the Cumberland River; a stretch of parking lots north of the Tennessee State Capitol where the historic Sulphur Dell baseball field once sat; and along the river’s east bank close to LP Field.

“We had a meeting with (Sounds ownership) a few weeks ago to just talk about their interest in the stadium and different locations, but we didn’t leave with any proposal,” Riebeling said. “It was really more concept. There’s still a lot more work to do.”

Doug Scopel, director of baseball operations and communications for the Sounds, declined to comment on negotiations.

“We’re not going to discuss that publicly until there’s a time and place to do it,” he said.

Dialogue follows the conclusion of the Sounds’ inaugural season under new owners, MFP Real Estate LLC, a New York-based holding company led by partners Frank Ward, Steve Posner and Masahiro Honzawa.

The group kicked off their tenure by pumping $2.5 million worth of renovations into aging Greer Stadium, a move billed as a recommitment to the team’s fan-base. From the outset, the new ownership also expressed a desire to ultimately move into a new ballpark, preferably downtown.

“They need to sort of flesh their concept of how they think this could get done in a little more detail and then bring us a proposal that we could reflect on,” Riebeling said. “I think they would like to do that in the not-so-distant future, and we’re open to that.”

Dialogue seems to suggest a shift from the Sounds’ rocky relationship with former Mayor Bill Purcell, who in 2007 held the Sounds in default of their obligations on a deal to build a proposed $43 million stadium on the thermal plant site.

By that point, the proposed stadium, along with its accompanied mixed-used components, had crumbled after then-General Manager Glenn Yaeger and Baltimore-based developer Struever Bros. failed to reach a financial agreement.

Disconnection between Metro and the Sounds culminated with city bulldozers tearing up pieces of Greer’s parking lot on opening day that spring to make way for a new visitors center for Fort Negley.

Riebeling, who called the thermal site land “one of the most important pieces of property in the city,” indicated any ballpark there would need to incorporate more greenery and complement the city’s plan to redevelop the riverfront.

“We don’t want to see a mass development on that site, like what was proposed when it fell apart a few years go,” Riebeling said.

As for constructing a new stadium near old Sulphur Dell, where the Nashville Vols played baseball until the 1960s, Riebeling said much of it is state-owned property.

17 Comments on this post:

By: BigPapa on 11/9/09 at 11:05

At least this group has come in and tried to make nice with the city of nashville. I'm still against giving that very valuable piece of property to a minor league baseball team. There just seem to be 1000 better uses for that spot.

By: JeffF on 11/9/09 at 1:20

It will be interesting to see a financing package for a stadium sitting in the TDZ of the proposed convention center. Previously they were going to keep all sales taxes collected on the property. Now that money will be necessary to keep the annual funding shortage for the CC debt service to an even $20 million.

It would be nice to keep some parts of downtown on the tax rolls but Dean seems hell bent on making the serfs in the hinterland pay for all the public facilities in downtown. I guess we should get used to wild promises of 10,000 baseball jobs and "world class cities" have downtown little league stadiums.

Dare to dream, we are following Louisville, Indianapolis, Omaha on every hare brained tourism pipe dream. So much for having a distinctive brand when every podunk midwest city is doing the exact same thing.

Sell the land and let businesses that hire people and pay taxes do their thing. The 98% of Nashvillians not living in downtown and the 86% not working downtown will not see an increase in standard of living with yet another downtown capital funding giveaway.

By: CityProgress on 11/9/09 at 1:27

Good points, Big Papa.
We already have a baseball stadium. Instead of just turning our backs on South Nashville, and putting a shiny new stadium downtown, we should improve the neighborhood Greer Stadium is in. There's a no man's land between downtown and the Sounds.
If the city implemented the recommendations issued by the neighborhood association (Chestnut Hill, I think) then we would solve so many issues that the residents of that community have battled for years. It's about time we gave them some support.
Mayor Dean has promoted the idea of concentrating development along the major corridors (including 4th Ave S.), combined with mass transit, as smart growth initiatives. If only he supported those necessities, instead of the Convention Center. Lets hope he takes the high road, and helps our city from the ground up, not from the top down.

By: gid on 11/9/09 at 2:39

Build the stadium downtown

By: idgaf on 11/9/09 at 3:48

Build it anywhere they want it as long as they pay for it.

The corporate welfare office is CLOSED.

By: JeffF on 11/9/09 at 4:55

Sorry ID, I forgot to leave that option open. Nashville should not stand in the way of a private company willing to purchase the property in a fair and transparent bidding process and building an entertainment venue with their own money. It seems odd that they would buy some of the most expensive land in the city, but if they are willing to pay the taxes they build themselves a stadium to be really proud of.

Just make sure that the PR firm hired to shepherd the deal through council doesn't allow anyone to post on the news sites information on the abysmal fiscal failure of the Memphis Redbirds' downtown stadium. Shhhhhh. The Redbirds were a "brand" that had to be promoted and protected. Maybe they can distract everyone with information regarding total attendance without having to mention the 70% drop since the place opened in their downtown and the closure of ALL the neighboring neighboring businesses brought in for the baseball renaissance.

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2009/sep/02/redbirds-trustee-of-bonds-in-talks/

By: frank brown on 11/9/09 at 9:25

How long are the Davidson County taxpayers going to tolerate the spending binge by this government. Unless gasoline goes to 15,00 a gallon one would be better off living in an adjacent county. You can buy a lot of gasoline for the 50% tax decrease you would gain from such action. Davidson county is getting very very close to having the underclass elect every local office. Look at what has happened in Memphis.

By: govskeptic on 11/10/09 at 7:54

frank brown those elections are already taking place in
Davidson County. Just look at the make up of the current
council! The seats are filled but most of the hats are
empty.

By: Time for Truth on 11/10/09 at 8:35

The best site for a ball park is next to LP Field. Shared parking, interstate access, and an instant improvement to the cityscape. That property will be an eyesore and a blight on the cityscape until the current owners sell it. And if it is a brownfield then a ballpark which is occupied about 300 hours a year makes more sense than building more condos. Despite the view and the fact that the property would have to be cleaned up no matter what goes there living units would be a hard sell.

The neighborhood around Greer is already improving. The WO Smith school is certainly a big step forward, and the massage parlors are largely gone. Greer has also been improved, but to steal a quote from 'political discourse', it is like putting lipstick on a pig.

The 800 pound gorilla in the room is the MCC. As long as that turkey is in the mix, Nashville will be incapable of spending any money on anything for years to come. But I fear the Dean administration's mantra is cram it down our throats first and let taxpayers pay for the consequences later.

By: airvols on 11/10/09 at 9:07

Well I see the same old people are in here yelling about financing and taxes like they do on ever project that is introduced. YOU DON'T HAVE ANY OF THE DETAILS AND YOUR ALREADY AGAINST IT. TYPICAL! The stadium belongs next the the Titans stadium, shared parking and services. It will also clean up a site that is badly needing attention. These owners seem to have the business savey to make this work. Let's give them a chance befor we throw them under a bus.

By: producer2 on 11/10/09 at 10:40

TFT,
From an article in the Chatter Class:

"Future Metro projects will not be constrained by the prospective Music City Center debt because revenue bonds have little to do with the city’s debt capacity on building schools and spending on other capital projects. It’s the difference between projects paying their own way and projects that don’t generate their own revenue and require property tax dollars and other general fund revenue to cover the debt."

By: Time for Truth on 11/10/09 at 10:53

If you read my post, airvols, you will see we are on the same page on this one. It is on the Convention Center, which will be an enormous albatross ultimately paid for by the people of Nashville who will never use it, that we disagree on.

Characterizing all opponents of the Convention Center, which according to the two polls I've seen is most Nashville citizens, as chronic naysayers is unfair and inaccurate. Progress that benefits the people of Nashville will always get my support, the MCC is clearly the opposite of both progress (dying industry) and benefit (unless you are a developer, restaurant owner or event planner) and the costs will be enormous.

Sounds on the East Bank YES! MCC NO!

By: Time for Truth on 11/10/09 at 11:00

prod, I appreciate your point of view even though I disagree on what the financial consequences of the MCC will be. Quite frankly, the evidence for failure that is out there outweighs Richard Lawson's rah-rah opinion for credibility, and it certainly outweighs the smoke and mirrors from the mayor's office.

And do you still think they are really going to get revenue bonds at a viable rate? The switcheroo is likely already in the works, we just haven't been allowed to look at it yet.

By: producer2 on 11/10/09 at 1:36

right into my trap TFT,
Name the tier 1 and 2 cities in Nashville's competitive zone that have failed by promoting and investing in tourism and the meetings industry? Here let me help........maybe (and it is still a maybe) St. Louis. Name another?.........(insert theme from Jeopardy) c'mon just one more.......what, nothing?

By: Kosh III on 11/10/09 at 2:36

airvols

I have no problem with a new Sounds stadium, provided the Sounds pay for it.

By: TNReader on 11/10/09 at 4:19

idgaf, apparently you are wrong about the metro corporate welfare office being closed. It appears that they want the taxpayers to at least guarantee, and maybe fund, a convention center hotel as no private investors believe they can get an adequate return on their investment.

As to the baseball stadium, I like all three locations, although it seems to make the most sense near LP Field to share parking as stated.

By: everloyal on 11/11/09 at 2:52

Besides the three sites mentioned, there is another site - the Fairgrounds. Oops, forgot that Dean and Weaver have already promised that site to some other corporation - soon to be announced unless the Metro Council puts a stop to this travesty!.