Supporters for an MLS team in Nashville are building their case, as a powerful group of business leaders are forming an MLS committee.
Nashville has been discussed as a possible expansion market for the MLS, as the arrival of the USL’s Nashville FC is seen in some circles as sign of the city’s growing interest in the sport. There is now some movement in terms of a private sector push for the idea. Businessman and former state economic development official Bill Hagerty is organizing a committee that will comprise of representatives from several regional businesses and organizations, including officials from the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and NHL’s Nashville Predators. The 22-member group will help in stating the city’s case, and certainly provide evidence of backing from Nashville’s business community.
As a market, Nashville offers some advantages, but the one lingering issue is a stadium. Nashville FC has not finalized plans for where it will play–the franchise is slated to join the USL in 2018–and there are no firm plans in place for a soccer-only facility. Recognizing this issue, Hagerty says is it something that he and his group plan to address. More from The Tennessean:
A key prerequisite to bringing an MLS to Nashville is securing a stadium. Hagerty said he’s worked with Metro and private developers and identified a range of possible sites targeted in the urban core, but declined to reveal any specifics. He said he envisions Metro being a partner to help pay for a stadium, which he said could cost in the $200 million range.
Though some MLS clubs share stadiums with NFL teams, Hagerty said the goal would be to have a soccer-specific stadium in Nashville because it would improve the city’s bid for an expansion team. He indicated less of an interest in retrofitting an existing sports facility in Nashville such as Metro-owned Greer Stadium, which has been recommended for demolition by the city because of its poor condition.
“The focus on our effort right now has been on building a new stadium,” Hagerty said. “We haven’t ruled out a retrofit, but we haven’t put any plan like that squarely in our sights either.”
If Hagerty and crew decide to push for a soccer-only facility, having that backing would certainly help to bolster the city’s MLS chances, though as noted earlier Nashville FC is still working with the city to find a suitable soccer venue. This committee is separate from DMD Soccer, the ownership group of Nashville FC. According to The Tennessean, Hagerty has made an offer for Nashville FC to join his committee.
Photo of 2013 MLS All-Star Game by Brett Flanders via flickr.com.