I sent my letter of support early this morning to my Council Member, Ludye Wallace, for the bill to approve the new ballpark downtown on first reading. I do support the Sounds move from Greer Stadium to a scaled down downtown venue on the old thermal site--publicly supported with tax increment financing--although not as vigorously as S-townWife and other season ticket holders do. My season ticket fellows have been putting the full court press on me to walk my talk. So, I expressed my full support of the bill to Council member Wallace. However, I did not contact all of my council members because there are some who just will not be convinced.
I sat next to one last night at the public charette for the Civic Design Center's Riverfront Development project. After listening to Council Member at large David Briley I am convinced that he is not convinced. It would have been futile to argue with him, especially since there seemed to be at least a dozen other people in the room who did not seem to need any help pleading the case for (except when one person who has some type of financial relationship with the Sounds turned to me in earshot of Council member Briley and served up a softball question with some obviously feigned curiosity, "So, how do you like that long walk [from your car] to Greer?" after Briley had complained that people would face long walks to a downtown ballpark).
As I understood it, Briley's basic reasoning is that this is not the year--budgetwise--to try to build a ballpark downtown. He is not opposed to the idea of a ballpark downtown. In fact, he told those at our table that he thinks the best place for it would be on the East Bank, south of the Coliseum where Phillips Metal currently sits. He said that he thought the developers would still sign on to develop the thermal plant site even if a ballpark is not located there. Briley did not sense any ground swell of support for a downtown ballpark; instead, he thought that even its supporters seemed unenthusiastic. At that point he asked me if my support was strong at which I have to admit I could only muster a "yes," without much fervent addenda beyond, "I like my spot on the season ticket waiting list." Briley said that if he had heard widespread support for a new ballpark on the thermal site, he would vote for it.
I confess that my fear of losing baseball in Nashville is driving my support of the proposal before the council tonight. If opponents like Briley could convince me that we would still have an opportunity to build at the Phillips site, then I might oppose the bill. But he cannot guarantee it. As far as I am concerned, my other concerns about having to fund another Coliseum or GEC have been addressed and I am not opposed to TIF, because it is a loan rather than a giveaway.
After attending my first School Board meeting last week, I certainly do not agree with those Council members like Jamie Isabel who try to manufacture some link between the district's planned closings and a new ballpark, and then argue that the connection ought to encourage opposition to a new ballpark. The School Board operates almost autonomously, and it seems to refuse any requests to take a step back and allow some to reexamine its strategy that it set only a few months ago at a Board retreat. I am not convinced that school closings or teacher cuts are the only options available just because the School Board determined during a retreat that it would only consider "capacity" issues now and "operational" issues next year. Their seeming inflexibility leads me to question Isabel's allegations that Metro's priorities are out of wack because we would build a ballpark but not fund education.
So, I hope that Metro Council approves the plan to build a ballpark at the old thermal site, but I haven't been out front like a drummajor for our pastime. For better or worse, it's in the Council's hands now.