Metro began its search Monday for an outside firm that will conduct a feasibility study of potential sites for a new Nashville Sounds ballpark, making official a course of action the city’s finance director has said Mayor Karl Dean’s administration would pursue.
Metro’s Purchasing Department issued a request for proposals Monday for qualified firms that would determine the most suitable location for a new downtown baseball stadium, along with a park’s optimal size, seating and suite configuration, and ancillary development opportunities. The study also plans to determine a cost estimate for a new ballpark, identify the best way to finance a facility and assess potential economic development opportunities that can result from the stadium –– both directly and indirectly.
Taking the lead on the study from Metro’s end is Jim Fyke, former Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner who recently joined the Metro Department of Finance.
“The first step needs to be an analysis of where a stadium could be, looking at all the potential sites that have been discussed, doing an analysis of the sites and coming in with a recommendation of where it should be built,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling told The City Paper in February.
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The Nashville Sounds ownership, MFP Real Estate, is hoping to move from dilapidated Greer Stadium, and prefers the 11-acre former thermal plant site near Lower Broadway for a new ballpark. Last year, they upped their new stadium pitch, tapping veteran lobbyist Tom White and public relations specialist John Seigenthaler Jr. to join their effort. The Sounds previous ownership eyed the same site before a stadium deal fell part in 2007 during the then-Mayor Bill Purcell administration.
“We welcome an independent study of the best place to build a new ballpark in Nashville,” Frank Ward, principal Sounds owner, has said in the past. “We have always made it clear we think the thermal site is the best location.”
Other sites bandied around include state-owned land northeast of the Tennessee State Capitol that served as home to the city’s old park Sulphur Dell; SoBro properties near the under-construction Music City Center; and locations along the east bank of the Cumberland River.
"We want a study that truly analyzes the sites without any predetermined ideas," Fyke said. "We want an independent study done."
Metro’s RFP outlines a timeframe whereby all proposals from firms are due June 10. The document states the firm is to be under contract “ASAP.” From there, the length to conduct the study is undetermined.
A new downtown ballpark appears to be setting up as a potential second term project for Dean –– if he’s re-elected and chooses to put his political clout behind it. Accordingly, any stadium proposal would go before a newly elected Metro Council.
The firm’s work is to fall under three phases. The first phase is determining the project’s overall budget, including land costs and stadium construction; analyzing the impact of a stadium on existing neighborhoods; exploring non-baseball uses of a stadium; and studying traffic and parking issues related to the stadium, among other duties. The firm is then to rank the different sites based on these and other considerations.
The second phase consists of utilizing other consultants for potential market studies, traffic studies and civil engineering analyses. The firm would also produce conceptual designs for sites under final consideration.
The third phase zeroes in on the final recommended stadium site, providing a schedule for the project and final overall cost and budget.