NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican state lawmakers peppered Gov. Bill Lee’s finance team with questions Tuesday about its proposal to authorize $ 500 million in bonds to help the Tennessee Titans build a new enclosed stadium. Some said the request caught them by surprise, since they approved a tax break for the team’s planned stadium upgrades just last year.
The Titans stadium bond proposal was among the new items that the GOP governor’s team presented to lawmakers, seeking their signoff to fund the priorities in the upcoming budget.
Other big-ticket proposed additions include $ 80 million for a one-month break from state and local grocery taxes; $ 78.1 million to boost airports; $ 20 million to help Memphis waterfront development on the Mississippi River; $ 20 million to reduce privilege taxes paid by a handful Lawmakers are mulling whether to require the of types of professionals; $ 17 million to help renovate a Nashville raceway hoping to land a NASCAR race; and $ 15 million to put toward new voting machines that produce a paper trail of votes in 61 counties without such equipment. equipment.
But lawmakers centered attention on the new proposed home for the Titans due to officials going from trying to modernize the existing Nissan Stadium to working on plans for a new stadium right next door after renovation costs more than doubled to $ 1.2 billion.
Butch Eley, the governor’s top deputy, told lawmakers the money would go toward a new covered stadium, saying $ 2 billion is in the ballpark of the total cost. Whether it’s a fixed or retractable roof, having an enclosed facility could help Nashville compete for the biggest events in or outside of sports, from the Super Bowl to the NCAA basketball Final Four.
Eley said he wants the state to be less invested than the Titans and Nashville’s government combined.
The push comes as the Buffalo Bills landed an agreement Monday for a proposed $ 1.4 billion new open-air stadium, fueled by a record $ 850 million taxpayer price tag to help secure the franchise’s future in the region for the next 30-plus years.
Both funding setups are already drawing skeptics who don’t think the government should be helping to fund pro sports facilities. The Beacon Center of Tennessee and Americans for Prosperity of Tennessee, which both prioritize free-market policies, came out against the Titans plan.
“The only break regular Tennesseans can expect is a one-month grocery sales tax holiday,” Americans for Prosperity Tennessee State Director Tori Venable said. “Don’t add insult to injury by giving away taxpayer resources to the benefit of a select few. ”
Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson noted legislation approved last year was aimed at stadium improvements.
He said the legislation lets the Titans keep sales tax generated inside of Nissan Stadium while still continuing to service debt from an initial state bond issue, scheduled for repayment in 2029. He said lawmakers also signed off on letting the Titans keep half of the sales tax from the campus the team plans to develop there, whether from hotels, restaurants or other businesses.
Eley said once the area is revamped, the state’s portion of taxes from the new development would go toward paying off the $ 500 million, “without current taxpayer dollars going to that.” He said the positive economic impact would also extend outside of the stadium complex ..
Johnson said he has “heartburn” that the stadium proposal would “very possibly” be costing the state money, “ultimately subsidizing” it. He questioned why the state shouldn’t wait for firmer plans from the Titans.
Eley said the cost likely would be much lower than the $ 55 million proposed annually for debt service, saying the 6% interest and bonding accounted for in the proposal represent a conservative estimate.
Eley reasoned that the administration thinks costs will only increase if the state waits, saying it’s a “good year to go ahead and put our stake in the ground and say we felt like that was a good investment for Tennessee.”
Earlier this month, Titans President Burke Nihill discussed the team’s plans at a Metro Sports Authority board meeting. The Titans currently are working with Metro Nashville officials on the design and costs of building a new stadium on Nissan’s parking lots between the stadium and Interstate 24.
Nihill noted inflation is driving costs higher, and both Nashville and the Titans want to finish work in time for the 2026 season.
The stadium opened in 1999 on a 30-year lease and the Titans had originally planned to renovate it for $ 292 million. Nashville officials have been working on plans for a year to redevelop hundreds of acres around Nissan Stadium on the east bank of the Cumberland River ..
That included renovating Nissan Stadium, with the first estimate of $ 600 million. That doubled when contractors raised new concerns about the condition of the stadium and its infrastructure.
Nihill has said a new stadium is the better value in the long run.
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