Two weeks ago, many on the Metro Council, including me, were poised to vote against the proposed soccer stadium due to serious flaws within the agreement between the ownership group and Mayor Fischer’s Office, as well as an insufficient amount of time given by the administration to review the proposal.
Despite the efforts of Mayor Fischer’s administration and others to quickly force this proposal through the Metro Council process, a bipartisan group of Metro Council members worked together to apply the brakes so that our questions could be asked and answered.
As a result, dozens of additional meetings took place and significant alterations were made to the agreement to protect the taxpayer’s investment in this project. The additional time also ensured changes to the agreement requiring the developers to meet a variety of goals and standards.
As part of my review, I and my Republican colleagues submitted more than 40 questions in writing to the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, Team Ownership and to Mayor Fischer’s Office. These answers provided us the opportunity to formulate amendments to the deal.
Here is a summary of some of the changes we made:
- Stadium proponents agreed to change non-binding language like “anticipates” and “intends” to “required.” This seemingly small change ensures that at least $135 million ($45m on USL Soccer Stadium and $80m in additional construction) will be completed on the proposed site.
- The language agreed to by the Mayor’s Office could have left Metro Government with few legal remedies if the team owners failed to invest the stated funds on the property. The deal now requires repayment of the bonds within 10 years instead of 20 years. This change alone will reduce approximately $5 million in interest charges on the project.
- Language was added to ensure that Metro will not be responsible for any overages or additional funding needed to complete any of the proposed projects.
- Language was added to make it clear that any future expansion or enhancements of the stadium would be paid for by the team owners and not by you, the taxpayers.
Recognizing that there were enough votes to pass the original agreement, I have spent a great deal of time over the last 2 weeks working with my colleagues across the aisle and with team ownership to renegotiate the agreement so that it better addressed some of our original concerns. This renegotiation, I believe, is what helped the project get bipartisan support of members of the Metro Council who represent all areas of this community.
Through this additional time and renegotiation process I came to the decision to vote in favor of the soccer stadium and redevelopment proposal.
While I still have some concerns related to the risk involved in this project, I believe the benefits for the project – not to mention the new revenue from the jobs created – made this deal worthy of moving forward.