A lawsuit trying to stop construction of a pro soccer stadium in Nashville will go to trial after all. A judge’s ruling late Wednesday says there are relevant questions about how the stadium will impact other longstanding activities at the city fairgrounds.
It’s the latest procedural twist in a case that has drawn the two sides into feisty arguments.
The group Save Our Fairgrounds has argued that officials overstepped rules in the Metro charter when they approved a 30,000-seat stadium for Nashville SC. The team begins play later this month at Nissan Stadium.
Metro will have to prove at trial — to be scheduled in May or June, according to the judge — that a soccer stadium and surrounding mixed-use development won’t interfere with the Tennessee State Fair or the monthly flea market.
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle wrote in a 43-page ruling that she wants to hear more about how much space and parking the state fair needs, and whether new buildings that Metro built on the property are sufficient for some of the fair’s agricultural attractions.
Lyle rejected Metro’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, but also makes explicit that she’s not judging the strength of the case made by Save Our Fairgrounds.
In fact, she flatly rejected several of the group’s arguments. For examples, she found that a stadium is an allowable “amusement” at the fairgrounds, that the project would qualify as an improvement to the grounds and that the Tennessee State Fair isn’t entitled to exclusive use of the property.
Lyle goes so far as to note that Save Our Fairgrounds had “chronic” problems following rules that govern court filings and at times failed to complete arguments.
“The Plaintiffs have so much content in their pleadings and partial motion for summary judgment and so little research, analysis and application of the law that the Court is left to speculate,” Lyle wrote.
But on the crucial question of whether a trial is warranted, Lyle ruled in their favor.
She said statements from four people who work with the state fair and the flea market raise “genuine issues of material fact.”
And she points to guidance from a higher court as key to her decision. Lyle had dismissed the case earlier, only to have the Tennessee Appeals Court send it back for further review.
Lyle, wary of a similar outcome, now says it’s prudent to go to trial.
The attorney for Save Our Fairgrounds, Jim Roberts, called the ruling on victory in a long fight, and said he is excited to expose a “crooked scheme” in court.
It’s not immediately clear how the ruling could affect the start of construction on the stadium. As it stands, the project has been delayed four months, and the team and the mayor are stuck in a negotiation. Neither commented on this ruling, and a spokesman for the mayor indicated negotiations are ongoing.