NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The city of Nashville on Thursday signed an agreement that could make the Music City home to the Houston Oilers by 1998, with the team possibly playing in Memphis for the next two seasons.
Nashville officials signed a 50-page document laying out the $292-million deal that could have the Oilers playing in Tennessee by next fall. The city is required to help find an interim stadium if the Oilers buy out the two years remaining on their Astrodome lease.
"As a lame-duck team, I would hope we could work something out," Oiler owner Bud Adams said at the signing ceremony.
The move requires the approval of the rest of the NFL. Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen said he hopes league approval will come during the owners' March 15 meeting so that construction can begin on the stadium by next April and have it ready for the Oilers by the fall of 1998.
Adams said he has not talked to Astrodome officials about breaking his lease in Houston. For his interim home, he prefers Memphis--210 miles from Nashville--and its Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, where the team has played two exhibition games.
Adams spent several minutes during the ceremony talking about his loyalty and what he considers to be "binding."
"When Bud Adams tells you we will come, if you live up to your end of the bargain, that's binding," he said.
Adams' true intentions regarding Nashville had been questioned because of a 1987 flirtation with relocation to Jacksonville that resulted in a $70-million improvement to the Astrodome.
Last year, Adams asked Houston to build him a stadium, but the mayor refused to use taxpayer money.
Under the deal with Nashville, the city will build a 65,000-seat open-air stadium, which Bredesen said will be done without raising taxes.
Bredesen said Adams would face substantial penalties, including the threat of an injunction and financial responsibility for the stadium bonds, if he tries to leave before the 30-year agreement ends.
Several obligations must be met before the deal is final, including the sale of luxury suites and permanent seat licenses.
The next hurdle is the city's Metro Council, which is scheduled to vote on the agreement next Tuesday.