Over the past year, more than 12 cities have been vying for an MLS expansion team as the league goes to 28 teams. Currently at 22, LAFC is debuting next season and David Beckham’s Miami team is someday getting in. Hopefully before we’re all old.
But for the other 12 cities, they are going for four spots. And while cities have gone up and down the ladder of probability, Nashville has become a favorite to get an MLS expansion team.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has been endorsing a plan to bring an MLS team to Nashville and after a 31-6 approval by the city council, those plans seem to go ahead.
The plan is to build a stadium on the site of the Nashville fairgrounds whereas $225 million will be spent on the stadium and $25 million on renovating the surrounding fairgrounds, which include the racetrack.
If Nashville gets an MLS team, billionaires John Ingram and the Wilf family, who own the Minnesota Vikings, look to be owning this team. This leads into a debate on whether or not a city should be able to use taxpayer money to build a stadium for billionaires.
In this instance, Nashville is going to be raising $225 million in revenue bonds to have money for the new stadium while the team owners will be paying $25 million and $9 million per year over the next 30 years. Similar deals have taken place in other cities for stadiums to be built and it was revealed that team owners weren’t paying their share. That’s not to say it won’t happen here but opponents have seen it happen too many times elsewhere that they don’t trust what’s going on. In addition, other parts of the deal include retail and hotel space so opponents feel that it’s a real estate deal being masked as a sports stadium deal and the land value may wind up being undervalued.
Debate on public money aside, Nashville looks like they cut to the front of the line for MLS expansion. And with two spots set to be announced in December, Nashville is sure to have one of them.
As a soccer city, Nashville seems like it can be a very successful soccer city. When MLS wanted to expand, I felt MLS needed to focus on the southeast and put at least a couple teams there to build up the area. Nashville is more midwest, but it is in a great area that isn’t served yet by MLS. After a fan owned team in NPSL spawned enough popularity in the city, a USL team formed and is set to start play in 2018. Because of the USL team coming in, the fan owned NPSL team sold their team to the new USL owners for a 1% stake and a seat on the board.
As a sports city, Nashville has emerged as a very great sports city, With just the NFL and NHL in terms of “big four” pro sports and Vanderbilt in college, the Nashville sports scene isn’t as saturated as other cities. And if fans getting behind the Predators during the Stanley Cup is any indication, there’s plenty of room for that kind of fandom in soccer as well.
If Nashville is announced as an MLS expansion city, it would be a great scene for Nashville and soccer in the city. I would’ve loved to see the team owners paying for their own stadium with their own money but that’s up to the city to decide. And if it comes out that the team isn’t paying back the city as originally planned or that the city is spending more money to complete the stadium, hopefully those who live in Nashville remember those people on the council who supported the stadium plan when they’re up for re-election.
[Nashville Scene/Photo: HOK]