Nashville SC, MLS Sound Off on Stalled Stadium Plan

Nashville SC stadium rendering August 2019

On Thursday, Nashville SC and MLS issued a statement expressing “deep disappointment” over the stalled plan for a new stadium at the city’s Fairgrounds.

Set to launch as an MLS expansion team next month, Nashville SC will play its initial seasons at Nissan Stadium. The club’s long-term facility plan, one previously approved by Nashville officials, calls for the construction of a new stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Nashville officials signed off on a $250 million stadium project in 2017, a major boost to the city’s expansion push.

Planning for the new stadium has stalled in recent months, however, as Nashville mayor John Cooper has yet to sign off on the demolition of existing buildings on the stadium site. Cooper’s administration has pointed to uncertainty over funding for infrastructure improvements related to the project as a holdup, and thus far the plans remain at an impasse.

Cooper and Nashville SC owner John Ingram took part in a meeting Thursday in New York with MLS commissioner Don Garber. The meeting apparently did not yield the progress club and league officials were seeking, as Nashville SC and MLS issued a joint statement Thursday expressing several grievances. In that statement, it was said that Garber told Cooper that Nashville would not have been awarded an expansion team without the city’s commitment to the stadium plans. Furthermore, MLS and the club expressed frustration with the mayor’s unwillingness to move forward with the project, despite stated attempts by Nashville SC in recent months to address his concerns.

It did, however, say that discussions will continue with hopes of “a mutually agreeable solution.” A portion of the statement can be read below:

Earlier today, we met with Mayor John Cooper at Major League Soccer’s office in New York City to discuss the status of Nashville SC’s stadium project. The new stadium and ancillary development have very broad support throughout Nashville and has been overwhelmingly approved multiple times by Metro Council.

Despite that, Mayor Cooper has not provided approval to begin the demolition to move forward with the stadium project. So, for the past four months, Nashville SC has worked to make the stadium deal even better and has proposed a number of new solutions to satisfy his concerns.

Even with these proposed new solutions, the Mayor today refused to commit to move forward with the demolition and the approved stadium plan. During today’s meeting, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made it clear to Mayor Cooper that Major League Soccer would not have awarded Nashville an expansion team without the commitment made by the city to build a soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds. The Mayor’s continued refusal to proceed is a deep disappointment to Nashville SC and MLS.

Nashville SC has agreed to work with the Mayor’s office over the next week to advance the discussions and finalize a plan to begin the stadium construction project. We hope for a mutually agreeable solution and expect to have an update regarding the project by February 6.

Nashville SC

In his own statement, Cooper–who has recently expressed concerns over rising costs for stadium-related infrastructure–stressed that he wants a “financially sustainable” solution. More from The Tennessean:

“Since entering office four months ago, I’ve worked towards a complete solution for the Fairgrounds that is both financially sustainable and results in a successful, unified site plan,” the mayor said. 

Cooper has said more negotiations must take place so that taxpayers will not be on the hook for infrastructure costs surrounding the stadium, including upgrading water and sewer lines, roads and possibly a new bridge. 

But few details have been shared by Cooper, who told reporters Monday that overrun estimates for stadium-related infrastructure show at least a “doubling” of what was determined under the approved plan. 

At-large Council member Bob Mendes told The Tennessean that while he appreciates Cooper “installing new discipline” in how Nashville handles development, it is time for renegotiations on the stadium deal to end.

Nashville SC has previously stated its hopes of opening the new stadium in 2022, with the 2020 and 2021 seasons played at Nissan Stadium. In addition to a soccer-specific stadium, Nashville officials previously signed off on plans for a mixed-use development on a 10-acre site adjacent to the venue.

Rendering courtesy Nashville SC.

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