Major League Soccer is coming to Nashville. And while the new stadium is expected to give the city's broader economy a jolt, community groups are looking for something more lasting, and more personal.
It's a concept that is relatively new for Nashville, but not for many other cities: a community benefit agreement. Cities like Los Angeles, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Pittsburg, all have them with their new stadiums. Agreements between the developer and the community — to not just build a stadium but also enhance what's around it by building grocery stores, employing local residents, and paying them a living wage.
Odessa Kelly is the co-chair of Stand Up Nashville, a coalition of community and labor groups behind the push for a CBA with the new soccer stadium.
"Nashville is a major city now, right?" she said. "We have to start conducting business in a way that people recognize us as a major city. Having the community involved in doing this, doing CBA's, is the way that we progress."
The push for a CBA has been tried once before, in a failed 2013 bid by Metro Council member Erica Gilmore to pass an ordinance that would have put hiring requirements on some developers.
At a recent meeting, about 100 residents broke into groups lead by moderators like Will Cardenas, to discuss what they might want from a Community Benefit Agreement.
"What would make jobs at the stadium good ones?," Cardenas asked his group. "What wages and career paths should be offered?"
The responses ranged from building affordable housing to creating safe spaces for at-risk teens and vocational training for youth.
In preparation for the discussion, Stand Up Nashville researched a number of other Community Benefit Agreements. Some, like Pittsburg's new baseball stadium, inked a deal with its developer to invest $500,000 in neighborhood services and another $2 million to attract a grocery store. They also agreed to hire first from the surrounding community.
It may seem like a big ask but Nashville Soccer Holdings, the stadium's ownership group, is already willing to listen. They had three representatives at the meeting, including Mark Cate, a lobbyist and consultant on the project.
"It feels like there is genuine excitement for what could be in this community," Cate said. "So we wanted to come and just listen tonight."
Their presence at the meeting bodes well for future negotiations.