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Bill to keep Super Bowl contracts hidden for 10 years passes Senate

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(The Center Square) – A bill that would allow Tennessee’s Department of Tourism to hide negotiated contracts for a potential Super Bowl and other events for up to 10 years was amended and passed the Tennessee Senate.

This means the legislation will go back to the House for approval before it can be sent to Gov. Bill Lee for approval.

“The NFL is very good about keeping relevant in the news cycle,” said Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon. “Even though players aren’t playing and games aren’t going on, they are constantly dribbling out information so that, when you turn on SportsCenter … they’ll have their announcement on something.

“… That’s good for the taxpayers of Tennessee and that’s good for the state.”

Several senators voiced concern over the open records exemption, which would require that the records are retained for at least five years after the 10-year exemption window.

The bill passed the Senate 23-6 with two marked present but not voting.

“I can’t see how anything can be held secret for 10 years,” said Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. “That’s a long time.”

The bill allows for the records deemed confidential to be released 10 years after the date of the document, after the disbursement of state funds, the conclusion of the event and the expiration of the contract.

Department of Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell recently said the department has $25 million in a mega event fund it can use for contracts related to a Super Bowl, Final Four or WWE-type large event. The funding came from last year’s Tennessee budget appropriations.

“I have always been against the exceptions in these bills,” said Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga. “Any time we tinker with the open records laws and allow exemptions for different bodies and stuff, I think we’re down a slippery slope. I respect the two Senate sponsors, but I will be voting ‘no’ on this.”

Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, said during House discussion that the bill would help bring the Super Bowl to Nashville in 2028, 2029 or 2030 after new Nissan Stadium is scheduled to open in 2027.

Lawmakers committed a $500 million subsidy for construction of new Nissan Stadium along with significant tax captures that contribute to an estimated $3.1 billion fund to pay off bonds and contribute to future maintenance and infrastructure at the site.

Economists have consistently shown publicly subsidized stadiums and events such as the Super Bowl do not bring the promised tax benefits to cities and states.