The new Expo Center buildings at the Nashville Fairgrounds will cost more than first thought.

The Board of Fair Commissioners learned Tuesday that the new projected cost of the Expo Center project is $37.6 million. Initially, the Metro Council was told the buildings would cost $25 million.

Mayor David Briley’s administration is dipping into a contingency fund for $5 million more than what was approved by Metro Council.

The fair board is building three new buildings at the base of the fairgrounds’ property. The three buildings, totaling about 130,000 square feet, will house the flea market and other events that will be displaced when construction begins on the MLS stadium.

In a one-page document, the project management team wrote that the Expo Center building and site, including design and project management review, will now cost $37,607,455.00.

A bond issue for the project will cover $25 million. Another $12 million comes from money the Metro Council originally allocated for improvements to existing fairgrounds buildings. Most of those improvements were never done.

Ed Henley, a construction management subcontractor, told the Fair Board that another $5 million will come from Metro’s contingency fund. The money is needed, he indicated, to cover items that cost more than expected.

Henley said competition for contractors and the accelerated time table have been challenges. He said the original concrete subcontractor pulled out of the project and a more expensive contractor whose bid was higher stepped in.

"We actually had our awarded contractor pull out. They got another project, so we had to move on to our second bidder. So that means there was an increase in cost there,” he said.

Henley told the fair board that $5 million of the capital spending plan from 2017 “has been accessed for this project to get us through the remainder of the construction on the Expo buildings.”

He said that any project that was awarded in the 2017 fiscal year has the ability to draw on that contingency fund.

The extra funding did not go before Metro Council.

Thomas Mulgrew, spokesman for the Mayor’s office, wrote in an email that the $5 million allocation was approved by the administration.

“Contingency funds are routinely budgeted in capital spending plans and allocated to projects that require additional resources as they are needed. It was the administration’s decision to allocate $5M of contingency funds to ensure that the Expo Center had updated facilities to meet its needs. We are committed to seeing that this project is completed on time,” Mulgrew wrote.

When asked who approved the allocation, Mulgrew wrote, “It was no one person.”

There is a time crunch. The project is running behind schedule. The Metro Council mandated that existing buildings cannot be demolished until the existing users of the fairgrounds have somewhere to hold events, so the Expo buildings must be finished before the MLS construction can begin.

As News4 has previously reported, the city agreed to have the MLS construction site “pad ready” by June 2019.

Henley said the expo buildings may not be ready to move into until late July.

That means construction on the MLS stadium will not begin according to the original schedule.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 I-Team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

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