A judge has ruled that Nashville’s Metro Sports Authority must reapprove the construction contract for a new Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in the city after it was deemed to violate the Open Meetings Act.
Chancellor Ellen Lyle ruled yesterday (Thursday) that the group’s contract with Mortenson/Messer Construction Company was invalid after a 2018 meeting to approve the deal did not receive adequate public notice.
The terms of the Open Meetings Act state that any action taken at a meeting that does not receive proper notice is deemed void.
The judge has ordered Sports Authority board members to “redo” the meeting, signing off on the contract with advance notice. The agreement for the 30,500-seat stadium, which will serve as the new home of Nashville SC, will not have to be rebid.
In a statement to local newspaper The Tennessean, Metro law director Bob Cooper said: “We respect the Chancellor’s decision and await remedial action by the Metro Sports Authority to reaffirm its approval of the stadium contract.”
The Tennessean noted that Nashville SC is not a party to the lawsuit.
The ruling comes after Nashville SC’s ownership group and Mayor John Cooper reached a deal in February that will eliminate taxpayer and budget burden for stadium construction. Cooper had stalled since October on approving the demolition of the old fairground expo centres, a necessary measure for the stadium to be erected.
The Sports Authority’s handling of the construction contract has drawn criticism from the Save our Fairgrounds group, which seeks to preserve, manage and promote a multi-use facility on the grounds near where the new stadium will be built.
Attorney Jim Roberts, who represents the group, said: “I can’t tell you what Sports Authority is going to do but I’m hoping they’re going to take this very seriously. As is typical, Metro doesn’t want to admit they made a mistake. They handled this meeting wrong.”
Roberts added that he hopes the city will rebid the contract. Save our Fairgrounds has a separate lawsuit pending, which alleges that the stadium deal is a violation of the Metro Charter. The case is set to be heard in August.
Construction work on the new stadium, which would be the largest soccer-specific venue in MLS, is scheduled to begin next month. It is said to be unlikely that this week’s ruling will prove to be a major setback for the project.
Nashville SC entered MLS this year and is playing at Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans NFL team, before moving to its new soccer-specific stadium.
Image: Nashville SC