Nashville SC Fans Are Losers In MLS Stadium Standoff
Yesterday was quite the day for Nashville SC news. I guess it all started Thursday when MLS and Nashville SC issued this statement expressing deep disappointment in Mayor John Cooper. That had been the elephant in the room for months. See the buildings in the photo on bottom. They have been vacant since October waiting to be torn down. As part of the original agreement approved 31-6 by Metro Council the MLS stadium should be built right there. Of course, first new buildings were built to relocate the flea market and other events that took place in them at the Fairgrounds. You can see those new buildings in the top picture (higher resolution photo at end of article). They have been in use since that time. If you zoom in on the that top photo you will see the racetrack behind the new buildings and just behind and to the right of the racetrack are the vacant buildings in the bottom picture. This the battleground of the stadium fight.
Nashville SC Dominated Coverage
I can confidently say I don’t think Nashville SC has ever had more media coverage than yesterday. Perhaps for the first time ever, they were the talk of Music City. Not the Titans, Predators or Vols, but soccer. Jason Davis spent extensive time talking Nashville SC on the United States of Soccer. He jokingly called it the Music City Mess and had the Tennessean’s Drake Hills on to discuss what was happening. Council members Colby Sledge, Bob Mendes and others issued statements on the stadium. Both local sports talk stations did segments on Nashville SC and all four big broadcast networks covered the story on TV which was changing by the hour. First, John Ingram issued a letter to Mayor Cooper and the Metro Council updating them on the concessions the team had offered to make. I’m not getting into them other than saying the club offered to pay for the cost overruns in addition to tens of millions more in private funding. But that really isn’t the issue as just a few hours later, John Cooper issued his response statement declaring parcel 8c as the issue.
What is parcel 8c?
Parcel 8c is about 1/3 of the 10 acres of land the city gave John Ingram as part of the agreement (the one that passed Metro Council by a vote of 31-6 under a previous mayor). If you look at the picture parcel 8c is basically labeled “A”. It is the land closest to the racetrack. John Cooper wants to make a deal to get upgrades to the racetrack in hopes of landing NASCAR. We still were not done as later Friday evening, Ingram responded to Cooper’s reply with another letter here saying among other things that, “We think those commitments should enable you to start demolition of the old buildings on the Fairgrounds Monday morning.” And there you have it. We are at a standoff. Will Cooper blink? Will Ingram sue? I’m not sure, but I confident of two things.
Cooper Not Likely to Back Down
I think the odds of Cooper backing down at this point are slim. I keep reading things like, “Nashville needs to live up to the commitment it has made,” or “the stadium is entirely privately funded.” I don’t think Cooper cares or sees it that way. The issue for him is giving land to billionaire. He has always opposed giving land away to developers. A little under two years ago Cooper wanted more oversight on Metro property swaps or transfers. This was his response to a plan to transfer the city’s Church Street Park site downtown between Sixth Avenue and Anne Dallas Dudley Boulevard to developer Tony Giarratana. The deal never happened. This seems a fundamental belief for Cooper and I’d be surprised if he budges are parcel 8c. This leaves Ingram few choices. I can’t see him relocating the team as this is his home. I also don’t see him suing the city. Again, he’s a Nashvillian and a lawsuit would guarantee the team would play the 2023 and likely 2024 seasons in Nissan stadium. Perhaps Ingram will sue to try and force a settlement, but it would be the last card he could play.
From a business perspective his best option appears to be to continue to negotiate. Yes, staying in Nissan will cost him tens of millions in lost revenues. The truth is that isn’t a lot of money to him and more than offset by the increase in the value of the franchise. David Tepper just paid $325 million for an MLS franchise in Charlotte. I’ve been saying the value of the club has increased by $100 million before they even play their first match. The truth is it has more than likely doubled. While Ingram is offering another $54 million to make the deal happen his overall investment in the franchise still seems a good one.
Nashville SC Fans Are the Losers
So there are two major problems for Nashville SC fans. First, I’m not sure you can under emphasize how getting out of the almost 70,000 seat Nissan stadium and into a soccer specific stadium at the Fairgrounds would improve the gameday experience. Second, despite being a billionaire and stating the team would spend at least in the mid range in the league, Nashville SC has started with one of the cheapest rosters in MLS. This year is very likely going to be a struggle on the field. Losing isn’t as fun or a good way to build a fanbase. Sadly, it is where we appear to be, but for how long? I’ve had a few people tell me they are fine with the roster given the large investment the club is making in the stadium and academy. I don’t agree and to them and the club would say this. Don’t state your goal is to compete and that you are going to spend at least mid tier in MLS and then be surprised when fans are upset that you don’t do either.
Photo by Paul Chinetti