A Downtown Nashville Baseball Stadium?
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling disappointed that city officials couldn’t work out plans to build the new downtown baseball stadium on the old Nashville thermal plant site. Millions of dollars in unexpected construction costs plus an astronomical cost of annual maintenance and tax expenses were simply too cost prohibitive to create a desirable deal. Mayor Bill Purcell has made his support publicly known for the alternative proposal to construct a riverfront amphitheatre, designed to seat 6,000-8,000 people.
Nashville’s traditional riverfront on the Cumberland would certainly be enhanced by the addition, especially with the creation of a series of smaller parks and the possibility of the ampitheathre’s use as a live music venue. Although this may seem like a fine alternative, it begs two important questions: first, how often would such a small amphithetre really be used, and why is this option “fundable” when the former option of a new baseball stadium wasn’t? Perhaps these aren’t the most optimal questions…perhaps the real question is this: can’t we build a baseball stadium that doubles as a live music venue? Of course we can.
The New Riverfront Park and Baseball Stadium
With about 16 acres of prime riverfront land, it only makes sense to develop a multi-use facility designed to benefit all Nashville citizens. Just hear me out: what if we were to modify the original 11,000 seat stadium to include a mobile stage that “takes the field” for live concerts? Just imagine an additional parking structure on the Shelby Street side of the stadium, complete with a group of smaller parks connecting the stadium to the Cumberland River frontage. Wouldn’t this be even more effective in achieving the overall goal (to revitalize the entire riverfront area)?
Now let’s take the visualization even one step farther – imagine the stadium was built in the Old World style, with brick facades and lovely architectural details. Fenway Park would have nothing on our new Nashville riverfront venue. The Shelby bridge side parking structure could mirror the same architectural style, providing at least 500 parking spaces and topped with the press box, luxury suites, dining venues and bars, ideal for the ultimate pre-game gathering. Not only would this posh structure provide easy access to parking and to the stadium, but it would also double as the storage facility for the movable performance stage and accompanying electronics. Instead of Fenway’s Green Monster, Nashvillians would have our very own waterfront stadium, complete with a “splash” for every out-of-the-park home run. Plus, our trademark claim to fame would be the signature guitar shaped video score board.
Can you see yourself strolling along the parks, admiring the fountain, exploring the walking trails and picnicking along the newly revitalized riverfront? What better way to bring families back to the Cumberland than with safe, versatile, low-maintenance parks.
C’mon, tell us what you think!
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Who Says the Devil Is in the Details?
OK, Nashville, I’ve got it all worked out – now tell me this isn’t the best idea you’ve heard in months!
Parking: Didn’t arrive early enough to nab one of the 500 onsite parking spots? No problem – just park in one of the 1,000 free spaces provided by the city of Nashville, across the river at LP Field. Park your car for free and stroll across the pedestrian bridge as you peruse the licensed vendors promoting apparel, merchandise, snacks and drinks.
Attendance: Tell me which of these whets your whistle and has you itching for the construction of our new riverfront venue:
An affordable $2 round-trip transport for all weekend games and concerts on the Music City Star.
Discounts and group rates for non-profits (schools, churches, etc.) plus any group of 10 or more
Fun and creative promotional nights like “Hot Dog Mondays,” “Thirsty Thursdays,” “Fireworks Fridays” and “Sit, Stay & Sing Saturdays” to enhance the overall experience for fans of all ages.
Traffic: Yep, we’ll definitely need additional police to assist with the flow of traffic and event parking. Why not dedicate a lane for the Shelby parking structure traffic (a reversible one way plan: in-only for pre-game/event and out-only for post-game/event)? First Avenue can transform itself into a one-way street for the couple of hours before and after any major event. Make it easy for folks to get here and home – run a free Nashville Trolley for events between the baseball stadium, the Commerce Street parking structures and the parking lots behind the Nashville Arena.
Security: Nashville police will need to add this section of Nashville to their patrol and patrol the entire site 7 days a week.
Cost: Put simply, let the City lease the new structure to the Sounds organization for 72 home games, and rent the venue out for concerts and special events. I’ve got it all worked out, but the expected revenue over a 5 year period is substantial. Let the citizens vote on a special assessment to cover the difference between the proposed revenue and the actual cost for the construction of the entire project.
Future Maintenance: The new stadium/music venue will be income producing, and all income would be held in a separate account designated to pay for all labor costs, maintenance, taxes, insurance, and future improvements.
The Proof – See for Yourself
I’d love to be able to say that my idea is original, or even novel, but it’s not. In fact, a number of comparable cities have implemented the same plan I’m proposing – and these cities have experienced remarkable results! Just take a look at some of these case studies:
In 1998, Cincinnati built a dedicated stadium along the Ohio riverfront. Today, anyone can see the apparent revitalization of the area. Upscale shops, restaurants, clubs and retail outlets now line the streets and the area is clearly thriving.
In 1997, San Francisco chose a coastal area for the site of their new ballpark, despite protests that the chosen area was neither safe nor convenient. The risk paid off – the development of a spectacular venue has clearly revitalized the area, providing a safe and stunning place to live, work and play.
Likewise with the city of Pittsburgh. Faced with the choice of losing the Pirates or plunking down a substantial amount of money to build a new stadium, they chose the latter and are now thanking their lucky stars that they took a chance. The Old World style ballpark stands on the river and provides one of the finest skyline views of any sports facility in the U.S.
What’s the difference between these venues and my proposal for Nashville? The only difference is size – aren’t we simply building a smaller scale major league stadium? What’s more, our facility has the added bonus of transforming itself into a music venue right here in Music City USA.
OK, you’ve seen the social proof, now what about the cost? Well, let’s take a look at how these other cities funded their brilliant developments.
San Francisco's baseball stadium cost $255 million dollars to build in 2000 and seats 41,600. Cincinnati's baseball stadium cost $320 million dollars to build in 2003 and seats 42,271. Pittsburgh's baseball stadium cost $216 million in 2001 and seats 38,496. When you add up the cost, the seats and take an average cost per seat you arrive at an average cost of $6,464 per seat. Multiply that cost by 11,000 seats and Nashville's baseball stadium should cost $71 million to build. Figure approximately $9 million in additional expenses for our one-of-a-kind integrated stage, electronics, and parks and that puts our total cost at around a high estimate of $80 million.
If Davidson County taxpayers had to foot the entire bill, each individual resident would have to pay a one-time assessment of $134 or spread that out over 3 years at $44.67 per year, but the taxpayers will not foot the entire bill. Nashville should gift its taxpayers the amount of money equal to 5 years worth of stadium revenues as a loan to build the stadium. This revenue will be made up of the expected lease to the Sounds organization, concert revenues, special event revenues, naming rights revenue, and the tax revenue from the expected sale of food, drinks, and merchandise. Again, using modeling of the three teams mentioned above, the average annual revenue per seat is $774. Multiply this revenue by 11,000 seats and by 5 years and you will arrive at $42.5 million. Now subtract that gift amount from the construction cost and the citizens now need to pay less than $40 million or a one-time assessment of $62.50 (the cost of a Titan's ticket), or spread that out over 3 years at $20.84 per year. Nashville's citizens need to be given that choice, the choice that will bring the world's most unique baseball stadium/concert venue to the banks of the Cumberland River.
Still not convinced? For the purpose of comparing apples to apples, want to know more about the country’s most successful minor league baseball stadium? The Memphis Redbirds built the 14,320 seat AutoZone Park for $46 million in 2000 and the city prides itself on making such a brilliant coup. In fact, in 2002 the park's average attendance was 11,025 per game, higher than both the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins in the same year. Read more about AutoZone Park and what the stadium has done for the city of Memphis.
Amphitheatre vs. Baseball Stadium/Concert Venue -- Isn’t the Choice Clear by Now?
For starters, an amphitheatre is not a versatile structure in the grand scheme of things. If we choose to build an amphitheatre, we are limiting ourselves to music and visual arts, which is fine…except that it’s simply not as attractive as the idea of a one-of-a-kind baseball stadium-slash-concert venue. For nearly the same cost, we would have a much more versatile structure, creating more opportunities for use, less overall down-time, and a higher profitability.
Are we losing anything by choosing the baseball stadium/concert venue option? Let’s take a look:
We’re still creating a structure to pick up the slack created by the loss of the Starwood Amphitheatre
We’re still proposing building a series of small parks to connect the downtown riverfront with the new structure
We’re still revitalizing the riverfront area, bringing folks together in a space that is beautiful, safe and inviting.
Now what advantages are there to choosing the multi-purpose option over the amphitheatre-only option?
- The baseball stadium venue proposal includes more downtown parking, which creates an additional revenue stream for the project
- The multi-purpose facility can be used more often than a single-purpose facility, which creates a higher profit margin and less downtime. It is projected that an amphitheatre might be used 40-50 times a year at most, but a baseball stadium/music venue could likely add an additional 72 uses totaling 112-122 uses annually.
- A world-class baseball stadium venue will attract more events like high school baseball tournaments, SEC college baseball tournaments, MLB exhibition games, another venue for Fan Fair, celebrity softball events, charity events, and an annual Music City Softball Classic.
- A lockable baseball/music venue will be easier to police during times of non-use whereas an amphitheatre will most likely attract more homeless to the riverfront and act as a shelter from the elements.
- A world-class baseball/music venue will attract more tourists and tourist dollars to the riverfront providing more diverse events ranging from a $5 baseball ticket to a $100 concert pass.
- A more diverse venue will also spur the residential, commercial, and retail development of the Sobro area of Nashville. The development will give residents more options for shopping, working, and playing.
- This new venue could keep Nashville from losing yet another one of our downtown professional sports teams
Seems to me the choice is pretty clear!
What Can You Do to Help The Stadium?
Ready to get involved and help make our proposal a reality? Help us convince the Nashville government that you want a more diverse riverfront that includes a world-class baseball and concert venue. Here’s what you can do: Call or email your local council members Contact the Mayor's office Call or email a local reporter - The Tennessean, News Channel 2, News Channel 4, News Channel 5, Fox News
Everything you just read is merely a suggestion made by one person -- we need more suggestions, ideas, and criticisms to help make our stadium a destination for baseball and concert lovers alike! Telll us what you think and get involved – it’s your city! Join our blog and write about it