We end 2018 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #7: Nashville MLS stadium plans are finalized.
After a Nashville MLS expansion team was approved in late 2017, the status of a new stadium was still in flux. Despite an abundance of lawsuits and lobbying against The Fairgrounds site, Nashville MLS stadium plans were approved for a 2021 opening.
Nashville went from a long shot bid at the beginning of 2017 to landing an expansion team by the end of the year. A big part of that success was the willingness of Nashville officials to consider plans for a new stadium at The Fairgrounds. And despite the stadium plan not being finalized, MLS went ahead and approved the expansion bid.
Which, in retrospect, was a pretty good decision. It legitimized pro soccer in Nashville, with Nashville SC attracting healthy crowds at Nissan Stadium and First Tennessee Park, home of the minor league Nashville Sounds. With that performance, approving a Fairgrounds site became a little easier for city officials.
What was proposed at The Fairgrounds was not just a simple stadium plan. The city had approved $225 million in bonding for the new stadium, and part of the plan had given the MLS team owners development rights to the area around the stadium. What’s been proposed as part of the private development: a 10-acre mixed-use installation that would include a hotel, housing, retail space and entertainment offerings. It would demolish existing buildings at the Fairgrounds Nashville to make way for the development.
That demolishment of buildings, as well as the potential loss of parking, sparked some outcry in the public, as it would impact some Fairgrounds activities and a popular flea market. In the end, an attempt to put it to a referendum and a quest for a temporary injunction to halt construction failed to derail the project.
So what comes next? Prep work at the site is underway. Nashville SC will play another season in the USL before moving up to MLS in 2020. That presents an issue: the team’s new home won’t be ready until 2021, so finding a temporary home for 2020 will be one of the biggest decisions the city and ownership makes in 2019.
Here’s our Top Ten of 2018 to date: