Out of the park: Nashville officials dispute reports of cost overruns for stadium

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Nashville’s top finance official says a plan to use $65 million in taxpayer money to finance a new minor-league baseball stadium downtown will come at or under budget — despite media reports that say otherwise.

Additionally, representatives for two construction companies bidding against one another to build the park for the Nashville Sounds dispute reports of $5 million in cost overruns from the Nashville Tennessean, the state’s largest newspaper.

Citing the Tennessean’s work, Breitbart.com reported the same story.

“There is no price since there is no final design as of yet,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said in an emailed statement to Tennessee Watchdog.

PROPOSAL: An artist’s rendering of the proposed new ballpark for the Nashville Sounds.

“All this is being worked on, and we will construct the ballpark within available funds.”

The Tennessean reported that builders involved with the project told city officials they need $42 million to $43 million to construct the stadium — more than the $38 million Mayor Karl Dean originally said was needed.

Elizabeth Goodwin, spokeswoman for the Nashville-based Bell Construction, one of those firms, said media reports are inaccurate.

“It’s not true,” Goodwin said.

“I’m not authorized to say any more because the contract hasn’t been signed. We can’t really answer any questions about the project. We haven’t done any budget. We haven’t done a cost analysis yet. We just gave a fee. It was misinterpreted. The newspaper just didn’t understand how the procurement system works,” Goodwin said, without describing how the system she mentioned does, in fact, work.

John Gromos, spokesman for the Brentwood-based Turner Construction, Bell’s competitor, agreed with his counterpart.

“I’m not sure why the Tennessean said that it’s over budget because I don’t think it’s gotten to a point where the drawings have been completed and anyone’s bid this project out,” Gromos said.

“I think that’s someone speculating on it.”

As Tennessee Watchdog previously reported, the total cost of the project — a public-private partnership between the city and the Sounds and Embrey Development — is $150 million.

The city will build and then own the proposed new ballpark in a section of Nashville known as Sulphur Dell, a news release said. The area hosted several minor league teams in the past, as well as the Negro League’s Elite Giants. The site for the proposed ballpark complex is undeveloped.

The Sounds would lease the ballpark, which would hold 10,000 people, under a 30-year lease, with a planned opening date in 2015.

The Sounds play in Nashville’s Greer Stadium, which a private ownership group developed in 1977 in time for the Sounds’ debut season in 1978, said team spokesman Doug Scopel, in December.

City officials now own the stadium, although Scopel didn’t know when the city bought the property or for how much.

Robert Duvall

Metro Council member Robert Duvall told Tennessee Watchdog in December he feared possible “fuzzy math” and unintended consequences of the project.

Duvall said Monday that Dean and other city officials rushed to get the Metro Council to approve the project without thinking it through.

“’Let’s get it over with’ was their attitude. It’s a done deal. ‘We have to move on to bigger and better things,’ they believed,” Duvall said.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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