Nashville Metro Council Approves Soccer Stadium Subsidy

Published November 30, 2017

Nashville, Tennessee residents may pay for a new, privately owned soccer stadium after the city’s Metropolitan Council approved a big subsidy for a facility expected to cost $275 million.

On November 7, 2017, the Metropolitan Council approved $225 million in taxpayer-backed money to build a new soccer stadium, using a combination of new government bonds and tax revenue. The stadium ownership group, led by local businessman John Ingram, will be responsible for the remaining $50 million in construction costs.

Major League Soccer (MLS) leadership met in December 2017 to select two cities, out of 12 applicants, to host new teams in the league. The Nashville financing deal depends on the city’s selection.

‘Worst Type of Deal’

Mark Cunningham, director of communications for the Beacon Center of Tennessee, says taxpayer financing for sports stadiums is a bad deal.

“This is the worst type of deal for taxpayers,” Cunningham said. “We’re going to be paying millions of dollars for a team that many of us don’t care about. People that do care might not be able to afford [to attend games], even though their taxes are paying for it.”

People should ask some basic questions about stadium subsidies, Cunningham says.

“Do we believe in competition?” Cunningham said. “Do we believe in capitalism? Is capitalism giving a minimum of $225 million to a soccer stadium that the billionaires own, or should they have to pay for it themselves?”

Reality Check

The facts contradict stadium subsidy supporters’ rhetoric, says West Virginia University economics professor Brad Humphreys.

“The justification that team owners, or the people who want these subsidies, always give is that there’s going to be tangible economic benefits that are generated in the local community,” Humphreys said. “If it did, then that would be a justification for subsidies. There’s a huge body of peer-reviewed economic research that has found no evidence of the tangible economic benefits associated with sports teams and facilities.”

Unrigging the Game

Current state and federal laws encourage sports team owners to hold taxpayers hostage, Humphreys says.

“If your team is going to threaten to leave unless you build a new stadium and you want to keep them, you’ve got to build it at public expense,” Humphreys said. “The way that policy is set up, they don’t have any choice. A different public-policy environment wouldn’t allow the league to have that kind of power.”