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MLS stadium lawsuit headed back to trial court


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville's Major League Soccer stadium has hit a snag under the latest development in the legal battle surrounding the project.

A Tennessee appeals court on Thursday sent the case back to a trial court to review possible violations of Nashville's Metro charter.

Judge J. Steven Stafford says the lower court failed to consider several legal provisions in deciding whether the city violated its charter while approving leases related to the soccer stadium.

"The Court of Appeals expressly did not address the merits of the case," Jon Cooper, law director for Metro Nashville, wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Friday.

Cooper wrote that the trial court had ruled there were no violations of the metro charter for continuing existing uses at the fairgrounds and that the plaintiffs raised additional claims that other charter provisions are being violated in the appeal. He said the appeals court sent the case back to Davidson County Chancery Court for a ruling on those arguments.

A coalition known as Save Our Fairgrounds has been fighting the stadium project since September, shortly after Nashville officials gave final approval of the $275 million MLS stadium. The effort includes tearing down expo center buildings to make room for the stadium at the Metro-owned fairgrounds. This has sparked opposition from vendors concerned about losing business.

Attorney Jim Roberts called the appeals court decision a total victory for the Save Our Fairgrounds group in the fight against what he called a terrible deal for Nashville.

"That's exactly what we asked for, it's exactly what we argued. I'm totally ecstatic," Roberts said. "You're dealing with sort of complex legal issues, so it's not clear to the average person, but this is a total victory ... They're not going to win that issue at trial."

The first stage of construction at the fairgrounds is nearly complete with new buildings set to start hosting events in August. The next stage will be demolishing the old expo buildings to clear the site for construction of the stadium.

Nashville Soccer Club already announced earlier this year that the MLS team, which will begin play in 2020 at Nissan Stadium home to the NFL's Tennessee Titans, will not move into the new 30,000-seat stadium until 2022.