Senator Gardenhire says Stadium Venture is bad business for taxpayers; Says it will lead to tax increases in the county

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Sen. Todd Gardenhire said Friday that the city and county’s Southside Stadium project is bad business for taxpayers, which he said will “without a doubt” lead to an increase in the county’s property tax.

He told Civitan Club members that the U.S. Pipe-Wheland site could become a “tax bonanza,” but he said the tax revenue from the proposed $1 billion investment would take 30 years to pay for the stadium and other uses will flow “rather than for basic services like police and schools.”

The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday to grant the final approval needed to establish a 470-acre tax-raising funding district around the proposed stadium and issue a new city/county athletic department worth $80 million in bonds allow.

Senator Gardenhire said former Mayor Andy Berke came to the Legislature to ask for a new exit ramp that would bypass the proposed stadium.

He said the state spent $34.8 million on this project, including $1,070,000 that property owner Gary Chazen billed the state for “200 feet of property” needed for the right-of-way.

The spokesman said the Lookouts owners initially promised early leases of up to five years. He said that has changed to $1 million a year coming in from the club.

Senator Gardenhire asked, “Why are we doing all this for Georgia millionaires?”

He said a Knoxville group has poured $75 million of their own money into a stadium being planned there, and he said the Tennessee Titans are investing half a billion dollars.

He quoted Warren Buffett as saying, “When the tide goes out, you see who swam naked.”

Senator Crutchfield said, “I want to see in the next 5-10 years who deserves the credit for voting on this cause.”

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