May 18, 2017
Summary: In an article in the Tenessean, two major league stadiums in Nashville collectively will need as much as $477 million in improvements and deferred maintenance over the next 20 years, according to a study. Convergence Design was part of the study team, reviewing the overall architecture and finishes in the two stadiums.
Nashville's two professional sports venues, Nissan Stadium and Bridgestone Arena, collectively need $477 million in improvements over the next 20 years in order to extend the life of both Metro-owned facilities, city consultants say.
Projected costs, which cover everything from architectural improvements to better technology and plumbing, are outlined in new condition assessments commissioned by Metro.
The voluminous reports, released on Thursday, come as the franchise lease agreements at Bridgestone Arena and Nissan Stadium, both built in the 1990s, expire in 2028.
Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, will begin its 19th year of play this year after opening in 1999. The stadium is in need of $293.2 million in capital improvements over the next 20 years, according to a report from Brentwood-based Venue Solutions Group that was initiated by Mayor Megan Barry's administration.
The same consulting firm says Bridgestone Arena, which opened in 1996 and became home of the NHL's Nashville Predators two years later, faces capital needs totaling $183.4 million.
The Metro Sports Authority tapped the consultants in September to conduct a review of the facilities amid rising city costs to cover upgrades, repairs and upkeep at both Nissan Stadium and Bridgestone Arena.
The mayor's office says the next step will be to create "actions plans" for both facilities. They aren't ready to say how Metro and the sports franchises might pay for the upgrades.
In both venues, Metro has previously tacked on user taxes onto admissions to generate funding streams for upgrades that have included seat replacements at both buildings.
"We've got to sit down with all the involved parties and come up with a plan just to determine exactly how we fund this," Metro Sports Authority Director Monica Fawknotson said. "And it's going to take some time."
Recommended improvements, which were unveiled at Thursday's sports authority meeting, are based on "best practices" in similarly sized venues and are phased in over the next two decades. Across both stadiums, around 40 percent of looming costs involve technology expenses such as IT systems, scoreboard and video displays.
Under lease agreements with both the Titans and Predators, Metro is obligated to maintain the venues. Much of the infrastructure in both venues have 20-year lifespans, meaning needs are poised to pile up.
At Nissan Stadium, which cost $290 million to build in the late 1990s, the report identified several issues with the main video boards even though they were updated five years ago. The stadium's broadcasting cabling system is in poor condition, according to consultants, and it has insufficient camera locations for national broadcasts.
Architecturally, the assessment characterizes Nissan Stadium as uninspiring that is the result of "cost cutting in design and construction."
Lighting throughout the stadium is "generally the type of fixture available at the time of construction," the report says. And the overall impression of the main and upper concourses is that it is still unfinished, according to the study, because of exposed unpainted concrete.
Meanwhile, most of the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protections system are original to the stadium.
Bridgestone Arena, which cost $144 million to build, gets considerably more frequent use than Nissan Stadium and is near the midpoint of what is usually considered its useful life, according to consultants. The report says that in terms of architecture the building is in "very good condition generally, and shows evidence of being well maintained during its lifetime."
Still, the assessment says the arena's video displays and video production equipment were last updated in 2008 and is now outdated. The arena's sound system still relies heavily on aging analogy control and connections.
The assessment also says the arena's piping is showing signs of corrosion, rust, pitting and scaling and as a result should be considered for a complete replacement over the next five to seven years.
"These are big, complicated expensive buildings" said Larry Atema of Commonwealth Development Group, a contractor for Metro that worked with the consultants. "We just looked at everything from technology, food-service, elevators, escalators, architectural features, water-proofing and roofs, and just said, 'This stuff is going to wear out over time. When is that time likely to be?'"
Metro's Chief Operating Officer Rich Riebeling said the condition reports provide a "baseline of information" on what's required at the facilities. He said the city has not started negotiations with either the Titans or Predators about extending their stadium leases.
The Predators have made clear they want to remain at Bridgestone Arena long-term.
"I think the Predators are probably further along in their internal thought process as to whether they want to talk about extending the lease, but there's not been any negotiations or any conversations at this point," Riebeling said.
Last year, the Predators tapped the sports architecture firm Populous Inc. to explore new concepts for the stadium that go beyond the industry-standard recommendations in the latest review.
Ideas include for the area around Bridgestone Arena anew on-site hotel, an office tower, a secondary ice rink, an expanded concourse and a slate of upgrades to improve the interactive fan experience for millennials.
Predators CEO Sean Henry said the team plans to combine the two reports. He also said the team hopes to begin talks about a lease extension with Metro within the next six to 12 months.
"The real key isn't just to keep Bridgestone Arena where it was designed in 1996 rolling ahead for 40 years instead of 30. It's to take where we are today, and the good things we're doing, and be in the same exact address 50 years from now.
"This is where we should always be," he said of the high-profile corner of Lower Broadway and Fifth Avenue.
In the NFL, the cost of recent new stadiums have surpassed $1 billion. Minnesota's U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last year, cost $1.13 billion. The former St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers have both moved to Los Angeles in recent years , where they will play in a $2.66 billion stadium set to open in 2019. The Oakland Raiders plan to move to a new stadium in Las Vegas.
Riebeling said the Titans have not indicated to the city that they want to leave Nissan Stadium.
"They've not given any indication of any desire for a new stadium," Riebeling said, adding that the goal right now is to address the stadium's upkeep before discussing a possible extension. "We're not at that point yet."
In a statement on the stadium assessment, Titans President and CEO Steve Underwood did not address whether they want to remain at Nissan Stadium beyond 2028.
“It will likely take a good bit of time to understand the details of the assessment, as it is a 200-page document that took many months to put together and covers two decades of time," Underwood said.
"To this point, we haven't drawn any conclusions about the amounts and the work described in the assessment. Even after we get our arms around what it means, we will need to spend time with our partners at the Sports Authority and the Metropolitan Government to share thoughts and ideas.”
Nissan Stadium and Bridgestone Arena have already required additional costs for Metro even before the $477 million in recommended future expenditures.
In her upcoming budget, Barry has proposed increasing Metro's annual subsidy to the Titans from $1 million to $1.5 million. The subsidy covers capital maintenance that arise over the year. Ahead of last season, Metro spent $15 million to replace seats inside Nissan Stadium and have pumped millions more to cover a range of other expenditures.
Bridgestone Arena underwent a seat replacement over the past three years. Recent upgrades have also included new LED lighting and bathroom renovations. That followed a face-lift to create a new south-facing entrance, a pub, a team store and large outdoor television screens and a news banner.
Reach Joey Garrison at 615-259-8236 and on Twitter @joeygarrison.