Sports Authority OKs LP Field improvements

Upgrades backed by user-fee supported bonds; Titans look to attract more events in '12

A $26.8 million plan to upgrade LP Field took another step toward reality Monday as the Metropolitan Sports Authority put its stamp of approval on the deal.

The renovations — first proposed in October — will be funded through bonds backed by the $2 seat-user fee. The Titans have asked that the Metro Council add another dollar to that charge as well.

"In working diligently … we can get the best deal we can get. We commit to get the best deal for this building we possibly can. We will stay within this budget and get it done. We have always tried to do things … the right way without spending too much money," Titans Vice President Don MacLachlan said.

Nevertheless, authority member Rusty Lawrence pressed MacLachlan on whether the team would come out of pocket to pay for any overruns.

"There won't be a cost overrun. … We'll come underneath. Trust me," MacLachlan said. Later, Titans CFO Jeneen Kaufman said the team would come back to the authority in the event the project is over budget.

Authority member Steve North had numerous concerns about the deal. One of them is that the bonds — a 25-year issuance — extend past the life of the Titans' lease with the city, which expires in 2028.

Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said when lease negotiations with the team begin, "that will be part of the discussion." Under the terms of the current lease, Metro Government is obligated to maintain the stadium to NFL standards.

In addition, the bonds extend past the end of the recently signed collective bargaining agreement which ended the NFL's lockout of its players' association. The new deal keeps the players on the field for 10 years — and does not include an early-out provision for either ownership or the players. Should the league face labor strife, the bonds will lose a major chunk of their funding mechanism, but Riebeling said there is a contingency plan.

"The Metro Council would be able to approve a back-up plan on non-tax revenues," he said. "In case that unforseen situation becomes a reality, we'll have some reserves built up. ... So we'll use those reserves or the city would have to step in."

The authority's approval was unanimous, though both Thompson and North abstained. The plan must still be approved by the Metro Council.

In addition, MacLachlan said the Titans would be more aggressive in trying to attract more events to the stadium and that announcements are forthcoming for some events for 2012.