Murfreesboro City Council Questions NOTES Live Development Changes

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notes live rendering Photo from City of Murfreesboro
Photo from City of Murfreesboro

The Murfreesboro City Council may be moving to take back the 20 acres they gave to the developers of the Notes Live project, that is now being called VENU. According to a recent WGNS interview of councilwoman Jami Averwater, the developers recently came back to the city with revised plans that would add 2,000 more seats and remove both the restaurant and the event hall. The development is to be located across from The Fountains. 

Originally the agreement with the City included Bourbon Brothers Smokehouse and Tavern, Boot Barn Hall, and Sunset Colosseum on the Stones River. The final agreement was approved on December 21, 2022. The project was supposed to take about 24 months to complete. We are now 18 months from the signing of that agreement, and now they want massive changes, and there has been no groundbreaking or movement forward.  Just like the One East College project. 

“…[T]he city council and senior staff want developers to hold up their end of the bargain,” Jami Averwater told WGNS. 

As part of the VENU development, the City agreed to make significant off-site infrastructure improvements. According to a report by Fox News, when the project was first announced, [these improvements] “including the extension of Gateway Boulevard to Robert Rose Drive with connection to signalization of Warren Street at Medical Center [Parkway where Fire Station 4 is located]…[As well as] additional signalization, median reconstruction, sidewalks, streetlights, drainage, irrigation, and needed utilities…The $7.1 million Gateway Extension Project received unanimous approval from City Council [on July 21, 2022] as part of a reallocation of CIP funding from FY 21-22 Bond Proceeds.” 

While Medical Center Parkway is currently under construction to be widened and the other changes are being made, Averwater fears that an extra lane in both directions may not be enough to compensate for a 44.4% increase in seating, and that slow concert traffic will have a negative effect on Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford, the fire station, and businesses in the area. 

As part of the original agreement between the City of Murfreesboro and VENU, the City gave the developers 20 acres of land on which to construct the concert venue, restaurant and banquet hall. It seemed like a great investment as the economic impact was projected to be around $50 million per year, not including the $36 million construction budget or the estimated $7 million in wages, according to Fox News.  

The stripping down of the development may be a need for higher cash flow. Quickly. The company has big plans to have venues all over the southeast, with a March 2024 announcement of a $300 million Dallas-Area Amphitheater, according to costar.com. 

In the costar.com article, VENU CEO and founder J.W. Roth said that the organization has “been busy growing its balance sheet to more than $300 million in the past year…The company is backed by private equity firms, family offices and high-net-worth individuals. He said Notes Live uses no debt. …This year, Roth said he plans to add another $350 million to the company’s existing balance sheet…Along with the newly announced Texas amphitheater, Notes Live is finishing its Colorado Springs venue with another planned venue in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, just outside of Tulsa, and one in Gainesville, Georgia. Two other projects are in the entitlement process in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and El Paso, Texas.” 

The interesting thing is that there is only one property that seems to be in the ground, the one in Roth’s hometown of Colorado Springs. And if you look on the funding page on their website, even it is not totally funded. 

Roth is a great talker. As he said in a press release when the project was announced. “We love Murfreesboro and plan to build one of the most luxurious music campuses in the country. We expect our live streaming and content strategy to make ‘Live from Murfreesboro’ a household name in every living room in America.” Has he dazzled the other locations with the same starry-eyed promise? And will it even happen? 

Murfreesboro.com recently did an update on the project, speaking with representatives of the company who still expect to proceed forward with their plans. 

While it would be great to have a music venue like the VENU project in Murfreesboro, it’s beginning to look a lot like the sports complex that never was.

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