This story has been updated.
The Metro Council has approved financing for a $585 million convention center by a vote of 29-9, scoring Mayor Karl Dean the biggest political victory of his first term in office.
After a few council skeptics made their final case, Metro’s legislative body decided to go forward and bankroll Music City Center, a project Dean first championed during his 2007 mayoral campaign as vital to staying competitive in the convention and tourism business and as a catalyst for economic growth.
Those voting against the proposal included: Michael Craddock, Eric Crafton, Robert Duvall, Emily Evans, Randy Foster, Jim Gotto, Jason Holleman, Jamie Hollin and Mike Jameson. Carter Todd abstained and James Bruce Stanley did not vote.
Approval of the financing plan came after the council shot down a motion to defer the resolution from Crafton. Many on the 40-member council spoke before the final vote.
Under the finance plan that the council approved, a combination of taxes and fees that target tourists would over time pay off bonds used to fund the project. Non-tax revenue from Metro’s general fund would back up the bonds. There is also a $40 million reserve fund set aside to cover shortages. Only after that is expired would general fund dollars be used.
The council signed off on the convention center’s financing hours after Nashville’s Priorities — a citizen-led group working in opposition to Music City Center — delivered some 9,000 signed petitions advocating a public referendum to decide the issue.
"I'm disappointed," Kevin Sharp, head of Nashville Priorities, told The City Paper after the meeting. "I'm disappointed that the council knew what the people wanted on this thing and then ignored it."
Although he could not provide an exact figure, Sharp said Nashville Priorities raised less than $100,000 to market its efforts and lobby council members. On the other side, the Music City Center Coalition released its list of donors today. In total, that group reported having raised $533,092.
With financing approved, Dean and Tennessee state officials hope to turn the existing Nashville Convention Center into a 12-story Medical Trade Center where people and companies can purchase medical supplies. The center, with an estimated cost of $250 million, is already gaining interest from potential clients.