Titans President and CEO Burke Nihill sat down with TennesseeTitans.com to discuss the new stadium project. Here's what we learned from that conversation:
Q: You announced earlier today that the team has reached an agreement with the city on a new stadium. What are some the details around that agreement?
BN: "It is an exciting day. We have reached an agreement with Mayor (John) Cooper with respect to a new stadium that would be built on the East Bank of the Cumberland River, a stadium that would be capable of hosting not only Titans games but the world's biggest events. We are excited because this has been a long time coming. We've been having conversations with the mayor for a long time, built around several principles, but a key principle has been the idea of finding a better path forward, in particular for the taxpayers of Nashville. The current stadium, Nissan Stadium, is an aging building and the current structure of our lease would require that the taxpayer would fund a good chunk of the investments that would be necessary to bring it into another generation, and we're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, if not over a billion dollars, worth of responsibility that would fall to the taxpayers and that wasn't anything that was acceptable to us, it wasn't acceptable to Mayor Cooper. So, we have for a very long time been trying to find responsible and sustainable solution to get to a next generation of a stadium for Nashville while doing so in a way that shifts that ultimate burden from the taxpayers and to the team. And we're delighted that we found a solution and we're excited to talk to the public about it. In terms of the building itself and the lease, a new building, we are picturing a facility of about 60,000 capacity. It would be an enclosed facility, again, capable of hosting the world's biggest events as well as events of all sizes. Also, what I think is exciting news for Titans fans, this lease would keep the Titans in Nashville, in Tennessee, for another generation. We are looking at a 30-year lease for this facility."
Q: What are your goals for fan experience in the new stadium?
BN: "We want it to be a modern experience. Our current facility has served our fans well for a few decades. But there is a better experience that is available by thinking about the diversity of experience. Many of our fans just want to get to the game, park in their seats, and watch the game. But what you see around the NFL, the best stadiums allow fans the choice about how they want to attend the game and interact with the stadium. So, that may be a great seat that has a good view of the game and they're parked there the entire time. And, that may be a social experience. There's families who want the ability to roam around a little bit with their little ones. We have millennials who would like to have something of a game-long tailgate. So, we are trying to build a building and design a building that accommodates a wide range of experiences. We are really, really focused on building a great fan experience, a home-field advantage frankly, through the design of this building and we feel like there are some really great opportunities."
Q: What does the next step in the stadium process look like?
BN: "There's a legislative process. The city council of Nashville has formed an East Bank committee that has been meeting for a few months now, trying to get all these details that we've been working on for a long time with the mayor's office and make public as many details as possible so the public can review in a transparent manner all the things that have led us to this point. So, that process will continue, and that process will add the details of this deal that we've announced with the mayor today and then it will go to a full city council process in the coming weeks. The Sports Authority, other agencies, need to review this deal and approve this deal. So, we are still talking about a matter of months of the city process before this deal will be completely finalized and approved. We have also been meeting with our community, we have been meeting with fans, to talk about what they want to see in a new stadium facility and the area around the new stadium and that process will continue as well. We are hungry for feedback. This is the people's house, and we want to hear from the people about what they would like to see in this design as we continue to mark toward the possibility of this new facility."
Q: Have you started the design process, and, when will the fans have a chance to see some of those initial plans?
BN: "The design process has begun. We needed to start the process months ago, frankly, to figure out whether a new stadium would fit on our campus, and, if so, how much it would cost. The answer, we're happy to report, is yes, there is a beautiful new building that would fit on this campus. So, we have a design process that we are starting to rally around. We hope to be able to show the community those early design concepts very, very soon. They are still in process, but as soon as they are ready, we hope to show them to the public and hope they are excited to see what a new building could look like on that campus. In terms of the design concepts, we've been paying attention to, first of all we have rallied around this phrase: 'Win on Character'. And, what we mean by that is we see Nashville and Tennessee as a character-rich community. I think about the Ryman. It is a treasure of a venue, the character of that venue. When you build a new building, you certainly want it to have modern comfort and a modern experience, but we also want to embrace that sense of character. We are not going to compete with some of the other facilities that have been built around the NFL recently, that are very, very feature-rich and opulent. We want this building to ultimately reflect the character, the rich fabric of this community, and we feel we've landed on something that's done just that. The second thing is, we are focused on this stadium being so much more than a football stadium. A lot of the buildings that have been built recently have been focused on being football facilities. It will be a great football facility. It's a facility that will create a great home-field advantage for the Titans, for Tennessee State University when they play their games there, but it's so much more than that. We want this city to be the very best concert venue in the country. We want it to be a place the Super Bowls and Final Fours want to come because it creates this great template for those events coming through, and we want this to be a great place for the community to come in and experience their house for 365 days a year, so that is another focus that we've had. The last thing that we've been focused on is a building that endures, a building that is flexible enough, is built with the right design process that it endures for decades and decades and decades to come. I've mentioned that this lease will keep the Titans for 30 years and hopefully beyond, we are trying to build this building in a way that frankly uses design methods and the type of forward-thinking our current building does not have, and we expect this building to last 50, 60, 70 years with the design methods and some of the thinking they are putting in by making sure this is an enduring and sustainable building."
Q: You mentioned the building will be enclosed. Is there a building in the NFL it will be similar to inside?
BN: "In terms of the interior design and experience, Allegiant Stadium (in Las Vegas), is probably as close as it gets. It's a translucent roof, like Allegiant. The translucent roof lets daylight through, and it creates a really special experience within an enclosed facility. We are also picturing using quite a bit of glass on the sides to focus on letting as much daylight as possible into the building. In terms of the seating mix, Allegiant is probably the most comparable. It's an efficient design like theirs, and it focuses on the diversity of the experience like Allegiant does. There's not a bad seat in the house like Allegiant. But everything about this building will be uniquely Nashville. In terms of the exterior architecture, there's never been anything like it."
Q: Anything else you can say about the exterior of the building?
BN: "Again, the exterior will be uniquely Nashville. One thing that will be different about this building and any other NFL facility is its location. It will be in a central part of the city, it will be surrounded by a beautiful neighborhood and beautiful parks, so the exterior of the building will respect that location and will use materials and features that make it a very special and uniquely Nashville building."
Q: What kind of playing surface will there be in the new stadium?
BN: "The playing surface in the new stadium will be artificial turf. Our plan would be to install the absolute best, technologically-advanced field surface available when the stadium is ready. There are some incredibly innovative products that combine the consistency and durability of field turf with the feel and performance of a grass and dirt surface. We'll continue to learn more about these leading technologies and collaborate with turf experts as we go through the stadium planning process."
Q: When will construction begin?
BN: "Let's not count our chickens. There is this city process that will be ongoing, and that will be the focus over the next few months as both the legislative process and the community outreach and the input gathering process. If all of that were to go according to plan, next fall is probably the earliest that construction would actually (begin). There is a design process that needs to continue. So, next fall to winter is probably the earliest that construction would begin."
Q: So, when would it be completed?
BN: "Our goal has always been 2026. With that said, we are not going to put an arbitrary date on completion that would ultimately result in a construction process that is hurried or a design process that is hurried. And so, if that means ultimately the first games and first events aren't hosted at the stadium until 2027 – and not 2026 – we will take a responsible approach to managing that construction schedule. So, short answer: We are aiming for 2026, but it may be 2027. We'll just have to let the next few months play out and determine what the schedule is, and we'll communicate the answer as soon as we have it."
Q: Where is the new stadium set to be built?
BN: "It would be built on our current stadium campus. So, if our stadium today is up toward the riverfront, the stadium would be built further back toward the East, in between the current stadium and the (interstate)."
Q: Will the Titans play in Nissan Stadium until the new facility is built?
BN: "Yes. We ... ultimately landed on Nissan Stadium being the best place to play Titans games, and also host other events, during the construction period, especially for other events. You look at CMA Fest and Music City Bowl, some of our longest-term partners at the stadium. Having just been through COVID, they lost several of their events and it would have been devastating to not allow them to continue having those events during the construction period. So, we'll end up co-existing. There will be a Nissan Stadium that is as active as ever on the West side of the campus while there is a new stadium coming out of the ground on the East side of the campus during the construction period."
Q: How will parking be disruptive for Nissan Stadium events during the construction period?
BN: "Parking will be disrupted, and we know that is going to be a pain point for a lot of our fans. So, we have been working really, really hard to identify parking alternatives, transportation alternatives, to make coming to Nissan Stadium a great experience even with that disruption, and we will communicate those solutions as soon as we need to be moving into that reality, when construction starts."
Q: What will happen to Nissan Stadium when the new stadium is completed?
BN: "Once the new stadium is completed the current Nissan Stadium would be demolished and would become part of the city's East Bank plan, which includes transforming that area from parking lots into a beautiful neighborhood with green space and the transportation hub and other great city amenities."
Q: What does a new stadium mean for Nashville in terms of bringing big events to town, like the Super Bowl?
BN: "We already are one of the best live event cities in the world. CMA Fest every year ends up being a four-day festival that attracts tens of thousands of people to this community and just shows off the community really well. People that come here have a great time, and the locals that partake have a great time. We've seen things like the NFL Draft, which I don't think will ever be topped in terms of how that event is executed. It just showed off the city so well, and the city got behind it to the tune of 600,000 people coming to downtown over that three-day event to celebrate the NFL and to have a good time. So, the promoters of the world's biggest events, whether it is the Super Bowl, whether it is the Final Four, whether it is Wrestlemania, they've seen that and they appreciate that this city is a great canvas to bring those events. The stadium building is the only thing that's been missing, and there's no question that this new stadium building will be designed in a way that will accommodate those events, and I have every expectation that we will regularly see the world's biggest and best events coming through Nashville."
Q: Is there is a capacity limit to get a Super Bowl? Is this a building that will scale up to get a Super Bowl?
BN: "We've had conversations with the NFL and other promoters and the idea of more seating being a prerequisite is old thinking. What the NFL cares about, what the other promoters care about, is the same thing the team cares about and other events care about. It's not the quantity of seating, but the quality of seating. At 60,000-capacity, the NFL would be very excited to bring its biggest events to a stadium with the characters and seating mix we are promoting, and the same holds true for other promoters as well, so there is no need to scale up. There's just not a bad seat in the house."
Q: I think a big question on the minds of a lot of fans is about PSLs. What can you tell us about the role of PSLs in a new building?
BN: "For a long time PSLs have been a reality of construction projects of this scale, so PSLs will be a part of this project as well. With that said, and it has been critically important Amy (Adams Strunk), and it has been critically important to the organization as a whole, that we find a way to honor existing PSL holders. The PSL holders, some of whom purchased their PSLs back in the late 90s, they're the reason why we are here, and they have been loyal to this organization for decades. There is just no scenario in Amy's mind where we don't honor them as part of a transition into a new building. What that looks like, we are still working through some of the details. But we are committed to giving every PSL holder a credit to purchase a new PSL in a new building that is in line with their original investment and their original PSL. Again, a lot of details to be worked out. And we know how important it is to communicate with our existing PSL holders. As soon as we have all those details, and we will very, very soon, but at every point when we've had these conversations, understanding as we go PSLs will be a part of it, there was not a scenario in which we wouldn't be honoring our existing PSL holders as we transition to a new building."
Q: Ownership, yourself, and a lot of people in this organization have put a lot of work into this process. What do you want to let fans know about where this process is going next?
BN: "I'll speak to Titans fans first. Titans fans who have been paying attention to this organization recognize the impact that Amy Adams Strunk has had on this organization since she stepped into her role as controlling owner in 2015. There's really not much that is the same about this organization from then until now, and just about everything is better. And, that is not the result of an accident. It is because of Amy's leadership – she sets really, really high expectations for this organization to deliver on behalf of the fans, and that starts on the football field, and we have seen remarkable results on the football field compared to where the team was when she stepped into her position. Hopefully the fans are seeing that throughout every part of this organization, whether that is getting in and out of the stadium, which has gone to a challenge to something that is better. Whether it is how we interact with them on social media and through digital channels, whether it is how our ticket office is interacting with fans. Amy really, really cares about the details and making sure the fans, and season ticket members in particular, feel a sense of honor and respect and have this closeness with our organization. This process, while it is about so much more than the Titans, for Amy she appreciates that this opportunity, it has to be right for Titans fans, and this is about defining what it is going to mean to be a Titans fan for another generation. I am just so excited for Titans fans to start to see what she has in mind along those lines. And to the Nashville and Tennessee community, first off thank you. Thank you for your support over the last few decades, it is an honor to be your NFL football team. We are committed to serving you well. We understand that we have a responsibility to use our platform, to use our resources, to serve you, and we are absolutely committed to continuing to do that, and that includes how we design a building, that incudes how we ultimately use a building. When we say we see this is the people's house, we absolutely mean it. This building needs to be so much more than a football field. This needs to be a building that serves the people of Nashville, served the people of Tennessee, and we are absolutely committed to making that happen."
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