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Tennessee House votes to allow Super Bowl deals to remain hidden for 10 years

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(The Center Square) – The Tennessee House voted Thursday to allow the Tennessee Department of Tourism to keep contracts hidden for up to 10 years for events such as a Super Bowl.

House Bill 1692 expands the number of records that can be kept concealed and the length of time.

Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, presented the bill as a way to keep “trade secrets and negotiations” private as the state works to bring the Super Bowl to Nashville after new Nissan Stadium is scheduled to open in 2028, 2029 or 2030.

The vote came as a groundbreaking ceremony for the new stadium was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Farmer claimed the bill “helps keep our taxes low and keep everything running smooth” but did not back up those claims. Tennessee 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.

Economist Brad Humphreys of West Virginia University recently explained the system of the NFL promising a Super Bowl in exchange for a publicly funded stadium deal and promising benefits that are not fulfilled from the game.

“Peer-reviewed academic research shows hosting the Super Bowl has no tangible economic impact on the economy of the host city,” Humphreys wrote. “The game has been played since the 1960s and moves around every year. This provides an ideal situation for comparing local economic outcomes when a city hosts the Super Bowl compared to years when the game was not played in the city.

“The reason hosting the game provides no tangible economic benefits is that it is a single game. While the game clearly draws a lot of people from out of town to the host city, the cities that host the Super Bowl are all large tourist destinations in their own right.”

Rep. Aftyn Behn, D-Nashville, pointed out that the state only requires contracts to be maintained for six years after their completion, so a loophole in the law would allow a contract to be destroyed before the 10 years is up.

“Call me old fashioned, but I believe that the public, taxpayer and our constituents, deserve to know what the state is spending money on and this diminishes transparency,” Behn said.

Tennessee Lookout reported that the only known time a Super Bowl contract was exposed publicly came in Minneapolis. That contract included free police escorts for team owners, 35,000 free parking spots and free presidential suites.

Farmer cited a “mega-event fund” but said Tennessee needed the rule to remain competitive for a Super Bowl.

“We’re trying to negotiate with businesses to bring big things to the state,” Farmer said. “We’re not trying to hide things. We’re definitely not trying to pay people. We’re not going to put people in posh hotel rooms and put them in private jets. We are not Washington, D.C. We are smart with our money here in Tennessee.”