What seemed an impossibility even to Nashville SC owners just a year ago is likely to be reality in a month. Last night Nashville’s Metro Council approved a MLS stadium financing package by a vote of 31 to 6. This was the major hurdle the team faced and getting it done so quickly just shows how business in Nashville is done a bit different than other major cities like St. Louis and San Diego. All that needs to happen now is MLS award Nashville a franchise in December. That seems a mere formality. For months MLS commissioner, Don Garber, has mentioned Nashville, Sacramento, Detroit and Cincinnati as cities that have stood out. Of those four, only two have plans for a soccer specific stadium. Sorry, Detroit and Cincinnati, but you’ll have to wait and figure that part out. Garber has preached for over a decade that a soccer specific stadium is the key criteria for landing a successful MLS franchise. It doesn’t hurt that owner John Ingram can easily write a check for the $150 million franchise fee. Nashville’s geography fits perfectly hitting a part of United States long ignored by MLS. Look at Atlanta and you see how Garber and MLS had underestimated demand for soccer in the Southeast. The team shouldn’t have a problem filling the proposed 30,000 seat stadium.
Having lived in Nashville my entire life, I feel it necessary to share my surprise at how easily this deal happened. Yes, you had Mayor Megan Barry pushing for it and John Ingram behind it, but there was almost no opposition? The previous mayor met major opposition when he tried to redevelop the Fairgrounds. Perhaps that group had grown tired or finally realized that redevelopment was going to happen? But the real shocker is no one questioned why the city needed to give its richest citizen so much money. A few have asked why 10 acres of land need to be part of the deal. Of course, land around the stadium needs to be filled with restaurants and retail which leads to more residential and office. But, why didn’t John Ingram have to pay a fair price for it? He’s already getting $225 in bonds to pay to build the stadium. Yes, he’s paying he interest on those bonds, but with revenue made from the stadium the bonds payed to build. Worse, if the team fails guess who has to pay off the bonds? Nashville Soccer Holdings LLC, not Ingram or other owners. So if things go bad, the team folds and the owners walk away while the city is left on the hook. Donald Trump has done this in numerous times. Look, I seriously doubt the team is going to fail and I’m glad it’s coming, but I just don’t understand politics. $225 million would be good start to Mayor Barry’s $5 billion mass transit proposal. But priorities I guess.
Anyway, sorry to rant for minute, but that’s what blogs are for. The headline is MLS is coming to Nashville. It’s pretty freaking unreal. Can’t wait for the opening match versus Atlanta United.