Friday, April 10, 2009

Titans fans may face $3 ticket tax

Fee would fund LP Field upkeep By Brad Schrade • THE TENNESSEAN • April 10, 2009 Tennessee Titans fans would face a $3 ticket tax for the 2010 season under a proposal to help pay for improvements to LP Field as it ages. The proposal will go before the state legislature and then to the Metro Council later this year for approval. A tax would generate between $2.7 million to $3 million a year to help Metro pay for improvements at the city-owned stadium. In addition to Titans games, the tax would apply to other events at the stadium except for Tennessee State University football games. Steve Underwood, a senior executive vice president with the team, said the money would go to the city to help pay for long-term capital needs at the stadium, such as replacing 70,000 seats. They are expected to last another 10 years, he said. "That project is probably going to cost $20 million," Underwood said. "There needs to be money on hand to pay that when it's done." The team draws about 680,000 fans through the gates each year, and other events such as the CMA Music Festival and the Music City Bowl draw thousands of additional fans. Idea gets good response Underwood delivered the proposal to the Metro Sports Authority finance committee on Thursday. Rusty Lawrence, chair of the committee, said it sounded like a good way to meet some of the needs at the building without going directly to Metro taxpayers. "It seems like a wonderful way in order to assure the long-term viability of that building without it having to come out of Metro's revenues from whatever source," Lawrence said. Mayor Karl Dean declined an interview request made Thursday through his press secretary Janel Lacy. She referred questions to the city's finance director, Rich Riebeling. Riebeling said the administration supports the proposal. The measure would need to pass in the state legislature before it would come to the Metro Council later this fall for approval. He said the tax would help the city spread cost for upkeep at the stadium to people who actually use it. He said about 40 percent of the Titans fans who attend games come from outside Davidson County. Overall, he said, the stadium, which opened in 1999, is in pretty good shape but will need some work as it enters its second decade. "There's nothing structurally wrong," Riebeling said. "There's no other major thing that I know of except the seats." Separately, the Metro Sports Authority finance committee took steps Thursday to hire outside counsel to sort through problems in the city's contract with the Nashville Predators at the Sommet Center. The full Metro Sports Authority must now approve the decision and choose a lawyer. The problems came to light last month when The Tennessean reported that according to a new contract the team was underpaying the city for a $1.75 per ticket surcharge. Under the contract's terms, the team would owe the city about $400,000, which would cover the past two seasons. "The contract says one thing," Lawrence said. "It appears that the intent of the people negotiating the contract was another." Legislation has been drafted to insert language back in the document that would release the Predators from any money owed and would limit the surcharge on lower-priced tickets. The proposed change is 5 percent of the ticket price for tickets up to $37.50, which is the way the old contract read.

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