Mayor Karl Dean simultaneously managed expectations and doubled down on his desire to put a new baseball stadium in North Nashville today.
At a courthouse press conference, the mayor confirmed reports from The Tennessean that Metro is pursuing a return to "baseball's historic home in North Nashville," before taking a big pause and emphasizing a crucial conjunctive adverb.
"However," he said. "We are still early in the process."
Dean confirmed the city is exploring the acquisition of state-owned and private land on Jackson between Third and Fifth avenues north, but repeatedly said few details beyond what had already been reported would be forthcoming in the short term.
The crucial question — how the reported $80 million project, including a $40 million stadium — will be paid for went unanswered, beyond Dean's statement that "the deal would have to make sense for the taxpayers."
"We are committed to moving forward only if it makes economic sense," he said.
But, crucially, the mayor did say, at least during his time left in office, there would be a new park in Sulphur Dell or there'd be no new park at all, quashing once and for all any hopes of a stadium at the old Thermal Plant site in SoBro or at the foot of the Korean Veterans Bridge on the East Bank. The former was all-but a done deal in 2008 and the latter was briefly considered a frontrunner as late as last year.
Indeed, the Sounds — and even former Nashville Vols who actually played at the original Sulphur Dell — were on the record, in the past, as being unenthused about the prospect of moving to North Nashville.
Sticking with the theme that all of this is very early — the mayor wouldn't commit to any "hard timeline" on the project — Dean said at some point the area's neighborhood associations would be brought into the discussion, though he said "this is a project for the whole city."
That notwithstanding, At-Large Councilman Jerry Maynard said the relocation of the Nashville Sounds was another positive step for North Nashville.
"Three years ago, we we were working with the mayor and talking about having economic development in North Nashville, north of Broadway. But this is a step process. First of all we did the 28th Avenue Connector, millions of dollars in investment. Look at Jefferson Street. Without the mayor, we would not have gotten that $3 million in grant money to clean up Jefferson Street," Maynard said. "The Sounds were not going to come to North Nashville had we not made the investments on Jefferson Street, Hope Gardens, with Germantown, all of those investments going on there. The Sounds were not coming. And so with all these investments and with the economic growth taking place because of the leadership of the mayor and the council, now the Sounds have agreed to come. And so you have to give credit to the mayor. But we've been working closely with him for the last four years."
One little bit of news, though not unexpected: Toby Compton, executive director of the Sports Authority, was in attendance, all but confirming the new stadium would be part of the authority's bailiwick. Greer Stadium is administered as part of the Metro Parks Department.
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