Global Sport Matters: More Bang for a Billion Bucks: Can Nashville Make a Better Sports Stadium Deal?

June 15, 2022 Media

This summer, the city of Nashville will almost certainly begin working toward a historic commitment of at least $1 billion in public funding for a new Tennessee Titans stadium and surrounding mixed-use neighborhood – money that will come on the heels of state officials authorizing $500 million of additional stadium funding. Titans CEO Burke Nihill said in April on 104.5 The Zone that the site of the proposed development, desirable and underused land directly across from downtown, “is really precious real estate … a real opportunity for the city and citizens to come together and do something really special … generational if we get this right.”

With promises of generational gains and an enormous amount of public funding at stake, it’s reasonable to ask a question: How can Nashville maximize its return on investment for a new football stadium?

New stadiums sometimes can have detrimental effects on local communities, largely because of gentrification and gameday inconveniences. In Inglewood, California, for example, a new stadium for the NFL’s Rams has led to sharply increased nearby rents and restaurants that lose money on Sundays because the places their customers used to park are now filled up by game attendees.

Pat Garofalo, director of State and Local Policy at the American Economic Liberties Project and author of “The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money and Jobs,” says that CBAs can be a partial antidote to these sorts of negative outcomes. “Stadium builds are sold as generating economic benefits for the metro area, but what gets left out is the local folks who are priced out, displaced, or just forgotten,” he says. “You need that binding agreement to have any hope of helping these folks.”

“When building a CBA,” he says, “you make contact with folks on the ground, include them in the process, make them realize there is a policy they can affect, and activate folks on issues that they can be influential on.”