FILE - Nissan Stadium aerial

An aerial view of Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.

(The Center Square) – The Tennessee House approved a bill Tuesday that would allow the Tennessee Titans to keep sales tax revenue from Nissan Stadium and future developments around the stadium for stadium upgrades and improvements.

House Bill 1437, which was approved 75-10, will allow nearly $2 million in state sales tax revenue from sales at Nissan Stadium to go back to the Titans for stadium improvements until the stadium’s bonds are paid off. The amount going back to the Titans will increase in 2029 to $5.4 million annually from a special state account to the Metro Nashville Sports Authority.

The companion bill still is working through the Senate. The measure is the result of negotiations between the Titans and Gov. Bill Lee and his staff.

Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, supported the bill but said she hopes the state also will give economic incentives to businesses throughout the state that encourage a higher-paying career in life sciences.

“We need an economy that is committed to PhDs,” Smith said.

The bill also asks the state to forgo 50% of the sales tax generated from a proposed East Bank development on its 130 acres of land near Nissan Stadium.

The bill said plans for the 130 acres around the stadium could “include hotels, retail establishments, eating and drinking places, and other similar establishments.” Once those are in place, the annual sales tax amount given back to the team is estimated to be $10 million.

Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, said he was voting against the measure for two reasons.

“I don’t like that we’re taking taxpayer money and funding these types of projects,” Sexton said. “I have always been a fan of the NFL. I don’t like what the NFL and these sports teams are doing to our country, disrespecting our flag and taking a knee against our country.”

Sexton said he understands the players' right to take a knee, but he also has the right to stand against legislation that then would help an NFL team. Sexton was cutoff and asked to return to discussion of the legislation, which was about forgoing tax revenue.

“I am going to take this opportunity to amen what Rep. Smith said,” Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, said. “We need to look at how we diversify our economy so that it is sustainable through the economic cycles.”

The House also approved a bill Tuesday that would allow additional sales tax revenue coming from a new $65 million minor league baseball stadium for the Tennessee Smokies in Knoxville to be used to pay off debt related to building the stadium.

House Bill 1204, which will be discussed in the Senate on Wednesday, will take into account current sales tax revenue generated by the Smokies and any additional funds will be kept locally. The stadium is scheduled to open July 1, 2023, and a $142 million mixed-use development is planned to go with it, featuring 630,000 square feet of residential space, restaurants and retail in the ballpark vicinity.