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Proposal could halt Rose Park renovation

A proposed Metro Council ordinance could halt or delay renovation of Rose Park, intended to be the future home for six Belmont sports teams.

Belmont President Bob Fisher quickly responded to the proposal in a statement in which he said, “I am surprised that two Metro Council members would offer a resolution to derail this community-based partnership, based on what the sponsors admit are presumptions about Belmont’s employment practices.”

The legislation was announced Tuesday by District 5 Councilman Jamie Hollin, and he was joined by District 6 Councilman Mike Jameson. It follows wide media coverage of the exit of Belmont’s women’s soccer coach and questions on whether it indicated any discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In the proposal, Hollin calls on the council to terminate the current agreement between Belmont and Metro government concerning Rose Park’s renovation and use. Belmont began some $7 million in park improvements in August after a court battle with an Edgehill neighborhood group.

The proposed ordinance cites two reasons for the request: the exit of former Belmont women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe and the school’s lack of a formal nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation.

“We don’t need to be in a lease agreement with a private institution where there is a policy disagreement like this,” Hollin said. “That’s the outcry of my constituents.”

The Metro government introduced a non-discrimination policy which included sexual orientation last spring.

“We can’t just have this policy in name only,” Hollin said.

The legislation would repeal the current agreement between the university and the city, halting the renovations of E.S. Rose Park, a public park 10 blocks away from Belmont’s main campus. The current agreement allows the university to pay millions of dollars to Metro Government and local organizations to renovate and then use the park for its baseball, soccer, softball, and track and field programs. As of November, the university planned to have the baseball and softball fields ready by mid-February. Games are currently scheduled at the facility.

Fisher released a statement about the issue Tuesday evening, calling the current improvements part of “a revolutionary shared field concept.”

He also repeated previous comments from earlier in the week, saying the university doesn’t take sexual orientation into account in personnel decisions. He called Belmont “a safe and welcoming place for all.”

“Belmont is committed to working with faculty, students, alumni, the Board of Trustees and the community-at-large to dialogue about our policies and practices to ensure that our actions are consistent with our values and to ensure that our campus remains a welcoming place for all,” he said.

If this ordinance passes, Metro Nashville would be required to pay Belmont for all construction costs. It is currently unknown how much this would be.

The resolution will be formally introduced for first reading at a Metro Council meeting on Dec. 21.

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