Our J.R. Lind weighs in on a bad deal at Sulphur Dell and the only way to rescue it — just buy the team. It's been done elsewhere and the manageable tab would bring with it some big benefits.
The value of the Sounds is hard to pin down (though, presumably, it's gone up with the promise of a new stadium). But Forbes' recent estimate of the 20 most valuable minor league teams did not include the Sounds. The 20th ranked team on that list — the Oklahoma City RedHawks — came in at $21 million.
For, say, $20 million, the city gets the team ... and it gets the revenue. Not just the increased sales taxes budgeted in the financing plan — all of it. Ticket revenue, beer money, parking costs. All of it.
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.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean (left) and Gov. Bill Haslam (right) kicked off the week at Nashville State’s southeast campus launching a program aimed at giving every public school student a free ride to community college or technology center.
Here are three things to take away:
1.) Under the program — named nashvilleAchieves — every single high school student who can’t afford to pay for college can get the tab picked up, although the program is focused on first-generation, low-income students. The idea is an extension of the tnAchieves program now live in 26 other counties. The move is an attempt to move the needle on both Dean’s and Haslam’s goals to increase college graduation rates. Fewer than a third of Tennessee adults have a post-secondary degree, according to Haslam. And in Davidson County, some 34 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and just over 50 percent have at least an Associate’s Degree, according to the mayor’s office.
2.) The program is a public-private partnership and Mayor Karl Dean is calling on the business community and philanthropists to pitch in. Supporters have raised some $1 million to launch the program and Dean said the city would plug in $750,000 over the next two years. The price tag is estimated at $745,000 for year one, and $1.25 million for year two. Dean is asking for donations to the effort, but is pushing hard for metro employees and the business community to volunteer as mentors to high school seniors to keep students on track.
3.) This program has the fingerprints of Randy Boyd all over it. Boyd is a Knoxville businessman behind Radio Systems, a company headquartered in Knoxville that produces technology-based pet products including the Invisible Fence. Boyd founded knoxAchieves in 2008 and helped launch tnAchieves a year later. Haslam tapped him in January to work as a special advisor for higher education, an unpaid position. According to the mayor’s office, Boyd is covering the overhead program costs privately.
Tom Negri — recently retired as managing director of Loews Vanderbilt Hotel — was chosen by the Metro Human Relations Commission as interim director. Negri was the founder of Nashville For All Of Us, the coalition of business types and progressives that defeated English Only.
The mayor is taking quite a bit of credit for Negri's appointment:
Members of the Metro Human Relations Commission today unanimously voted to name Tom Negri as interim director, based on a recommendation from Mayor Karl Dean. Negri, a vocal community leader on issues of diversity and immigration, retired earlier this year as managing director of Loews Vanderbilt Hotel.
Current executive director Caroline Blackwell has accepted a position with the National Association of Independent Schools as vice president for equity and justice. She leaves later this month.
“Tom Negri is a respected leader in Nashville whose business experience at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel and background as a founder of Nashville for All of Us will be an asset to the Metro Human Relations Commission as it continues with its important work,” Mayor Dean said. “As long as I’ve known Tom, he has always had Nashville’s best interest at heart, especially in making our city more tolerant, welcoming and diverse.”
Negri is founding chairperson of the Nashville for All of Us, a coalition that promotes Nashville as a welcoming and inclusive city and that worked for a 2009 defeat of efforts to make English the only permissible language for use by Metro government. Negri has served in leadership roles with several hospitality organizations, is past chairperson of the Tennessee State University Foundation and is an executive board member at Conexion Americas. In 2009, he received the Spirit of the Chamber Award from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Outstanding Diversity Leader Award. Also in 2009, he received the Welcoming Tennessee award that recognized outstanding leadership in the promotion of a more welcoming and inclusive state. Negri received the Metro Police Community Service Award in 2010.
“As an award-winning and visionary community leader and ‘king of hospitality,’ Tom Negri is the ideal interim director of the Metro Human Relations Commission,” said Dan Cornfield, chairman of the Metro Human Relations Commission. “Tom is a tireless activist and successful business manager with a proven commitment to diversity, human relations, and human rights.”
Negri is former managing director of Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, where he was responsible for managing day-to-day operations and development of the hotel and adjacent office building complex. He spent 35 years with Loews Hotels before retiring on Feb. 1.
Blackwell has led the Human Relations Commission since March, 2010, and during her tenure organized a nationally-recognized Hate Crime Prevention Forum; presented Celebrate Nashville’s Global Village and launched an annual Student Human Relations Summit; engaged Metro Government in the national Stand Against Racism; sponsored a new Youth Village at Nashville Pride; and introduced Nonviolent Communication and Restorative Practices to the menu of conflict management services available through the Metro Human Relations Commission.
“We should all appreciate Caroline’s commitment to the Metro Human Relations Commission and her deep dedication when it comes to human rights and human relations,” Mayor Dean said. “Her service has moved the Commission forward.”
“Through her outstanding leadership in the field of human relations and human rights, Caroline Blackwell leaves Nashville with a dynamic and professionalized Commission whose momentum sustains Nashville as an exemplary diverse, inclusive, and creative city,” Cornfield said.
In Monday's State of Metro Address, Mayor Karl Dean announced the launch of the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing to help alleviate one of the negative side effects of Nashville's growth and urban regeneration. Existing grants worth $3 million will seed the fund, which is named after Rev. Bill Barnes, a longtime local advocate for social equity. The $3 million and other future investments are projected to create 100 affordable housing units per year and help improve the affordability of another 200.
SEE ALSO: The full text of Dean's address