Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Ballpark cost overruns already: what we should have been told before Erica Gilmore and Jerry Maynard rammed the Sulphur Dell deal through council

This troubling bit of Sulphur Dell news trickled out on December 31, which means that it was likely muffled by the holidays and that many might have missed it:

construction firms told Metro what it would [actually] cost to build a new baseball stadium for the Nashville Sounds.

But Mayor Karl Dean’s administration said the new facility will come in on budget, despite the builders’ initial estimates running some $5 million higher than city officials said a new ballpark would cost before public financing for the project was approved.

A procurement evaluation committee has selected a team led by Bell & Associates Construction to build the ballpark, which is scheduled to open in April 2015 with room for 10,000 fans.

Now we see why this deal had to go through before everyone started paying attention to Metro government shenanigans again in the new year. If your council member voted for this plan and it does run over budget, blame him or her for lack of proper oversight.

In Memphis in the meantime, the city council has worked out a deal to buy their minor league stadium, AutoZone Park, with guarantees from team and corporate sponsors. On first blush, the agreement looks much better for Memphis than Sulphur Dell does for Nashville. The Memphis Redbirds will now be owned by their parent club, the St. Louis Cardinals, who have agreed to help pay for stadium improvements and for marketing. Both the St. Louis team owners and corporate sponsor AutoZone have agreed to help the city pay off the debt from the bonds financing the deal if sales tax rebate revenues don’t meet projections. What got the Redbirds in trouble in the first place were bond holders trying to flip muni-debt.

And get this: there were Memphis city council members holding out against the deal until it was reworked more favorably for the city.

In Nashville we have no assurances from the Sounds owner (who strikes me as more of a real estate mogul than a baseball guy) and corporate developers that they will help Metro out if projections are not met by realities. That's because the sponsors of the Sulphur Dell bill--particularly Erica Gilmore and Jerry Maynard--discouraged any obligation whatsoever on these private interests to help Metro out if the dreams do not come true.

Maybe I've grown accustomed and calloused to the horsewhipping of Nashville politics, so I can't grasp the regressive holes in the Memphis deal like some critics, but I wish we would have had the Memphis city council representing our city on the Sulphur Dell deal. "Piddly" guarantees are better than no guarantees.

No comments:

Post a Comment