Nashville soccer stadium update: July 19, 2019

Hey, this again!

Nashville’s soccer-specific stadium litigation drags on, with Save Our Fairgrounds intent on draining as much money from themselves and the citizens of Davidson County as possible.

First, the newser from WSMV includes this headline and lede:

“Save Our Fairgrounds” wins appeal, MLS stadium construction could be delayed

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – An appellate court judge has overturned a previous court ruling on issues surrounding the construction of a stadium for Nashville’s MLS soccer team at the Nashville Fairgrounds.

When covering a court decision that literally begins like this:

This appeal is dismissed

…so, keeping in mind that this particular outlet has long maintained an advocacy position against the stadium, certainly take its content with a strong, strong grain of salt. (I make no claims that I’m unbiased on this topic: I would like to see a stadium built, and as a resident of Davidson County, I would also like to see an end to my tax money being wasted by frivolous appeals from SOF. Unlike WSMV, I’m not thinly-veiling my biases, either).

So. What do we actually have in the legal decision by the Appellate Court? First, no lower court decision was overturned. That’s either ignorance or an out-and-out lie (see above parenthetical) from WSMV. There is, however, a finding that some of the issues from the lawsuit in Chancery Court were left unresolved by the Chancellor’s decision.

From the actual text of the court’s decision:

On January 24 2019, the trial court entered a detailed order granting summary judgment to Metro and dismissing “this case case a matter of law.” In reaching this result, the trial court noted that the lawsuit “concerns the meaning of section 11.602(d) of the Metro Charter.

“Here, Appellants contend that the trial court’s judgment does not constitute a final order because it did not adjudicate its claims that either Metro Charter section 11.602(a) or Article II, sections 8 and 10 of the Metro Charter were also violated by Metro’s actions with regard to the Fairgrounds.

So what we have is the Court of Appeals dismissing the appeal, and remanding to the lower court (in this case Chancery Court) to adjudicate on the issues as laid out in the second quoted paragraph – its decision on 11.602(d) won’t be changing.

Again, the Appeals Court specifically did not take this case, and specifically did not overturn any actions of the lower court. What it did is ask the Chancery Court to decide the matters of 11.602(a) and Article II, sections 8 and 10. (For what it’s worth, Metro’s argument to the appellate court is that SOF dropped those particular issues through its various filings over the course of the Chancery Court case, but the burden of proof is on Metro to prove that’s the case, and the Appeals Court will remand to Chancery Court to decide that matter).

So, the matter is back in Chancery Court, with Save Our Fairgrounds’s argument that Metro is in violation of 11.602(a):

It shall be the duty of the metropolitan board of fair commissioners to:

(a) Exercise all the powers and perform all the duties heretofore or hereafter imposed on the Board of Fair Commissioners of Davidson County, as established by chapter 490 of the Acts of Tennessee for 1909 and chapter 515 of the Private Acts of 1923 and amendments thereto.

I Am Not A Lawyer But… I have a hard time believing SOF even has standing here after the Fair Board specifically asked to be excluded as party to this lawsuit.

The other two matters are lengthy. Article II Section 8 (only the portion specifically cited by SOF, it’s a very long one otherwise):

Said board shall have control of the disbursement of all funds collected by taxation, received from the State of Tennessee, or collected from gate receipts, concessions, or leases of the said fair property for educational or amusement purposes, for the operation, maintenance or improvement of the fair property.

and Section 10 (again, just the portion deemed relevant by the plaintiff/appellants):

use and maintain said property by holding thereon, at least once a year, for not less than six days, a fair or exposition for the benefit of the people of such counties, and they may lease for amusement purposes said property at such times and in such ways as not to interfere with the operation of said fair, the proceeds received from said leases to be used in the maintenance of said fair, at which shall be exhibited, as far as possible, the resources of said county

Again, IANALB there is nothing in the building of a soccer stadium preventing the Fair Board from spending money to improve the Fairgrounds elsewhere (uh, “desire to improve or maintain the Fairgrounds” has traditionally seemed the bigger hurdle). The building of a stadium preventing a six-day window (minimum) for the holding of a State Fair at the site seems the more legitimate of the arguments, but given Metro’s very specific timeline to not alter the current exposition space until the new buildings are completed, I have a hard time imagining that this argument will change the Chancellor’s decisions.

All told, SOF has been repeatedly denied injunctive relief to halt construction on the Fairgrounds site while the legal process has played out. That is to say, there has been no practical effect on the actual erection of Expo Buildings on the northern portion of the site, nor will there likely be (barring further lawsuits and an injunction actually being granted) on the actual stadium site once that first phase of the process is finished.

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