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Titans stadium project set for $500m in state funding

NFL American football franchise the Tennessee Titans is poised to secure $500m (£388.1m/€462.1m) in funding for its proposed new stadium after the state budget was approved yesterday (Thursday).

The Titans’ vision of developing a new stadium last month received a boost after Bill Lee, Governor of Tennessee, gave his backing for a $500m funding package for the project. Lee (pictured) issued a request to state lawmakers, asking for $500m in bonds for the Titans’ stadium. The stadium funding is reportedly contingent on its final design including a roof, which would aid the city in hosting Super Bowls, NCAA Final Four games and other major indoor events.

The state is projecting it will cost $710m over 20 years to finance Lee’s proposed $500m bond contribution to the stadium project. The bonds had to be given the green light by state lawmakers, which came yesterday following negotiations over the entire $52.8bn spending plan for the State of Tennessee for the upcoming year.

The $500m package had been in doubt earlier this week after the Senate removed the funding from its budget. Certain conservative groups have opposed granting money to the project, deeming it a government handout to billionaires.

The funding package was said to be the subject of long debate in the House and Senate, with many Republicans based in communities outside of Nashville in opposition. Republican Jerry Sexton said, according to the Associated Press news agency: “Let them use their own darn money to invest in it. I don’t think they ought to be using Tennessee taxpayers and I’m not ashamed to stand up for the taxpayers of Tennessee.”

The subject of Titans players taking the knee during the national anthem to protest against racial injustices by police was also raised. “Now they’re coming to us and they want a bunch of money for a bunch of guys who won’t even stand up when our national anthem is being played in our stadium,” said Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver.

However, the House ultimately passed the Titans funding by a 71-19 vote, with the Senate following suit 18-13. “When you decide to do a dome type of facility, all of a sudden we go from a football dominated venue to an entertainment dominated venue,” said House Speaker Cameron Sexton, according to The Tennessean newspaper. “It only multiplies who it can bring in and what it can do.”

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally added: “The Senate was always uncomfortable with the Titans bond authorisation. That was clear both on the floor and in committee.

“But ultimately, with a $52bn budget you cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The budget funds the critical priorities of both the administration and the legislature. It provides tax relief as well as increases the rainy fund to historic levels. It is a budget all Tennesseans can be proud of.”

A new stadium for the Titans has been priced at between $1.9bn and $2.2bn, and could be completed by the 2026 NFL season, according to reports last week. The stadium is expected to take 31 months to build, with officials also planning for a $4bn public-private project that would lead to the development of a new neighbourhood surrounding the venue.

The Titans have recently changed course on their stadium ambitions. Talks over a major redevelopment for Nissan Stadium, the team’s home since 1999, in February switched to a potential new stadium after the price tag for the initial project reportedly doubled in cost to at least $1.2bn.

Image: Governor Bill Lee