It’s now been more than a year since Nashville’s pro soccer franchise agreed to a long list of so-called “community benefits” related to its stadium plan and a 10-acre development next door.
The team said it would provide a minimum wage of $15.50, affordable housing, employee childcare on site, and youth soccer programming, among other terms.
Yet it has taken until this week to form the 6-person community advisory committee that will track how the team is upholding its promises.
The groups that pushed for the community benefits agreement, or CBA, celebrated the milestone while saying that it took far too long to happen.
“We’ve had many delays, external, over the past year, but we’re finally taking the first big step,” said Anne Barnett, board chairwoman for Stand Up Nashville, the coalition of community and labor groups that negotiated with Nashville Soccer Holdings.
The committee is designed to bring varied voices together. The members are:
- Community Representatives: Michael Matlock and Heidi Basgall Favorite
- Stand Up Nashville Representatives: Odessa Kelly and Barbara Clinton
- Nashville Soccer Holdings Representatives: Mary Cavarra and Andre Johnson
Their task will be to monitor compliance on the agreement and to produce an annual report.
“It’s definitely a watchdog,” Barnett said. “But I think it’s also the public-facing portion of the CBA at this point, to keep the community, council members, interested parties [and] updated on how things are rolling out.”
When it was adopted, the agreement between the team and the community was hailed as a “first” across Tennessee, and a potential model for how communities can get a say in large projects.
Yet a letter obtained by WPLN shows that Stand Up Nashville recently aired several grievances and “deep concerns” to Nashville Soccer Holdings — before the two sides reached agreement on the advisory committee. The letter describes a yearlong struggle to create that group, including missed deadlines on the team’s side, and a general sense that the promises were being “ignored.”
In one example, the community group said it had organized an informational meeting for companies interested in contracting on the stadium project, only to find out that a similar event had already been organized without its input.
Workforce development is a major goal of the agreement — including goals of hiring from distressed communities and contracting with minority and women-owned businesses. Stand Up Nashville said it has yet to have any talks with the stadium’s construction management company, despite being mentioned publicly as a partner.
“We are left with many sincere questions and deep concerns. Does NSH intend to participate in the Community Advisory Committee? Will the other commitments in the CBA be similarly ignored?” reads the letter.
It’s unclear whether those questions and others like them have been answered, although the team has met with Stand Up Nashville and prepared this week’s joint announcement about the new committee.
In response to WPLN, the ownership group cites construction delays.
“So there hasn’t been a lot to discuss until closer to the time construction begins,” a spokesman said. “We are talking and meeting regularly, there just isn’t much to report at the moment.“