Nashville to explore cost of upgrading Titans stadium, Predators arena

The city of Nashville is considering spending $355,000 to assess the condition of the Tennessee Titans and Nashville Predators‘ venues, to determine what future maintenance and upgrade costs are likely to look like:

It comes as Metro is on the hook for up to $11 million to pay for a range of maintenance upgrades over the coming years to fulfill the city’s contractual obligation to the Tennessee Titans under a 1997 stadium deal that lured the NFL’s Houston Oilers to relocate to Nashville. That figure is on top of the $15 million Metro spent this past year to cover a replacement of all seats inside the 18-year-old stadium…

“I think if we have a benchmark (on costs) to start with, I think it will give us all a comfort-level, and then we can get into the political discussion about how we’re going to pay for it and what the best options are going forward,” [Nashville Chief Operating Officer Rich] Riebeling said.

“We’re seeing the obligations grow and we know that,” he said of Nissan Stadium. “This isn’t going to change. It’s an older building. You look around and it’s hard to believe that it’s getting on 20 years old, but it is. So we’ve got to start thinking about this.”

On the one hand, this is a perfectly reasonably thing to do: If you’re on the hook for future building upgrades, you probably should be thinking about what they’re going to be before the bills come due — and even, maybe, thinking about whether it’d be cheaper to replace the building than to repair it. (Almost certainly not, but it’s worth looking into.)

On the other hand: Who on earth thought it was a good idea for Nashville to be on the hook for future upgrades to their sports teams’ venues? In the normal world, either one of two things happens when a building is built: Either the people who are actually getting use out of the place own or operate it, and have to pay when the seats wear out and they want new ones; or the owners charge increased rent to cover the cost of upgrades. Nashville did raise ticket taxes in recent years to help pay for venue improvement funds — and as we’ve discussed before, ticket taxes mostly end up coming out of team owners’ pockets — but that’s not quite the same as actually getting to pass along the costs of upgrading buildings that are of zero use to the public if nobody’s playing there.

Anyway, let’s hope that this is a legit study, and not just a gambit for somebody to start arguing, “Hey, the Titans’ stadium is almost 20 years old, let’s build a new one, or at least do major renovations on the public’s dime!” But that never happens, right?

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8 comments on “Nashville to explore cost of upgrading Titans stadium, Predators arena

  1. The part about increased rent to cover T&I work (like the seats) is completely valid, but I do want to note that I am not sure the term “upgrades” should be tossed around loosely in this context. In the case of a 20-year old facility, the HVAC and electrical systems (distribution and lighting) are probably nearing the end of their useful lives. Replacement systems are bound to be improved over 20-year old technology in terms of efficiency and may well be no more expensive than the old systems were when they were installed. It’s going to sound like an upgrade – and probably be cheaper to operate like an upgrade – but it should simply be considered repair by replacement.

    So, if we’re talking about an upgraded scoreboard or blowing out walls to create new restaurants or corporate suites, the city of Nashville and taxpayers should balk. (Whether they can simply laugh depends upon the terms of the existing lease agreement.) However, since they failed to negotiate shared ownership of the facility, I would consider them on the hook for building systems. That is something that needs to be budgeted for and incorporated into each tenant’s lease agreement over the long term. (A concept that is entirely foreign to most city governments, but that’s a rant for another day.)

    And no, one doesn’t demo and replace a 20-year old building because it needs new light fixtures, any more than one rebuilds one’s house when the central heater goes down.

  2. OK, so I finally read the original article and my comment stands. I would question the details about the ticket office renovation, but roofing repairs are definitely on the owner (city). Most of what is being requested isn’t unreasonable or unexpected.

    And this is yet another reason why taxpayer-owned sports facilities can’t be expected to pay for themselves and why the commitment should be questioned before ground is broken in the first place.

    1. Well, the question here is whether you consider these public buildings, or private buildings that were placed under public ownership to duck property taxes. If the latter, the teams should arguably be on the hook for upkeep – if the former, the city should arguably have more control.

      We’re agreed that this is something that needed to be addressed in the lease, though. People always look at the headline construction costs, but the lease is usually where much of the real money is.

  3. I wonder what the lack of a Los Angeles threat does to the Titans situation. They could threaten to move to London, but if the NFL opens the door to Europe, there’s nothing Nashville can do to keep them anyway. Tottenham Titans already has a nice ring to it.

  4. Well, after this weekend’s Battle at Bristol with VT and Tennessee and the helpful overlays of how many stadiums would fit inside the track at 150,000 tickets being sold, I think the obvious solution is to add a field and rink to the middle of the Fairground Speedway and sell tickets like crazy.

    If they can suspend that giant video screen then they’ve probably got the ability to hold a tarp over the field when needed.

  5. I’ll start arguing that it’s 20 years old and time for a new one. I mean, I’m available to do that. Any time. Just call. 1-800-publicstadiumcash.

  6. I was an Oilers season ticket holder and remember when Bud took his toys to Tennessee. Bud screwed the tax payers of Harris County to get improvements to the astrodome and left us with the debt.

    I remember reading the deal thinking Nashville is gonna regret it, and they are now. Hope you are getting everything you deserve.

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