Nashville mulls 30,000-seat MLS stadium, council warns that Deadspin writer thinks it’s dumb

The investor group seeking an MLS expansion team for Nashville — one of the 12 cities actually being considered for four new franchises being awarded this year and next year, according to the league — revealed its new stadium plans on Monday: The stadium would be built on the city-county owned fairgrounds site, would hold 30,000 people (that’s a lot for MLS, which typically sticks closer to the neighborhood of 20,000 seats), and would be paid for by … let’s see … “the project still lacks a cost figure and financing plan” … keep scrolling … the mayor’s chief operating office “told council members the mayor’s office hopes to finalize stadium financing negotiations with Ingram in 45 to 60 days and file legislation for a stadium deal by October” … scroll, scroll … “The Metro Nashville Sports Authority and Metro Board of Fair Commissioners would also need to approve any financing plan, which would likely involve issuing revenue bonds” … wait, what?

Council members, getting their first crack at the looming soccer stadium debate Monday, said they plan to fully vet the project. Three council members raised a recent story from the online sports publication Deadspin that, citing work of an MLS critic, questions the business model and rapid expansion of MLS.

That would be this article by me. If anyone reading this knows more about who exactly said what, and how my article entered into it, please let me know in comments; and if anyone from the Nashville Metro council has any questions about my research, I guess drop me an email. In the meantime, beyond noting that 1) the renderings look pretty enough, though the upper deck seems unnecessarily high, especially on the side with no luxury boxes/club seats, 2) revenue bonds are fine enough if there’s some dedicated revenue to base them on, not so much if the “revenue” is tax money that may or may not be cannibalized from public tax receipts elsewhere, and 3) 30,000 seats really does seem like a lot for a small-market MLS team, guys, I’m afraid to say much about this proposal, because apparently it’s from my mouth to the council’s ear.


32 comments on “Nashville mulls 30,000-seat MLS stadium, council warns that Deadspin writer thinks it’s dumb

  1. Maybe it’s a dumb question, but doesn’t’ Nashville already have the perfect sized stadium for this?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanderbilt_Stadium

    • C’mon, professional soccer is such an enormous thing in the US, you can’t expect them to be willing to piggyback on somebody’s college or, more appropriately, high school stadium.

  2. Actually just like in San Diego the bigger size is satisfy a local college football program in need of a new football stadium. Also if you go to Soccer america.com Paul Kennedy article has entire council comments on your article video clip.

  3. Don’t tell Don Garber but there’s 50 (25-30K+ capacity) “soccer specific” football stadiums in Texas. They’re just used by high schools Amercan football teams.

    Can’t wait till Don Garber finds out he could sell 15 franchises in Dallas alone. Neil is right on this one; pretty soon MLS will be selling it’s 3rd $50M franchise in places like Little Rock. The only way this can play out is either open system (no-salary cap) PRO/REL that competes with other leagues or ever expanding franchise sales like krispy-kreme’s that canibalizes other teams and/or government welfare subsidies.

  4. We seem to have established some council people in Nashville read or know someone who reads Deadspin. Now, if only they can learn how to link to this website.

    • They would be wasting their time. This thing is going to happen. The South is embracing the game and time would be better spent telling Midwest council members of the Ponzi scheme in St Louis & Cincinnati. Yes the St Louis effort is still alive.

          • Um, so then why aren’t other major league sports higher than 32?

            As you surely know, European soccer is organized totally differently. National leagues contain big time teams (Manchester City, Bayern Munich) with provincial towns that would barely get a sniff in the US (i.e. Burnley, Leicester, etc.).

            The real comparison to a US league is the group stage of the Champions League, which at 32 teams is still probably 1/3 too large for competition’s sake.

          • The main constant in the findings is that NFL fan experience came in last in every single city surveyed. All anyone has to do is sample each sport with an open mind and if everything else is equal a fair non biased person will come to the same conclusion.

          • Because most cities don’t have the corporate base & disposable income to sustain MLB & NFL teams. Also USA sports leagues are based on huge government subsidies. Therefore expansion past 30 cities becomes difficult. Recognize sarcasm, I use it a lot when encountering haters.

          • No hating!

            The big European teams would like nothing more than a US style closed shop in UEFA (or another venue) that allows them to dominate the revenues and mostly cut out the little guys.

            The only things stopping them are a sense of tradition–and especially the voting blocks within national associations. Also, they like winning something (some things) every year. Government subsidy has almost nothing to do with it. US style revenue Fred does.

            Some national leagues (Spain, Scotland, the Netherlands, etc.) are becoming so preposterously uncompetitive that one wonders why they exist. Small towns in Scotland are not going to ever beat Celtic.

          • I read in Wikipedia that at some point, Celtic and Rangers considered applying to get into the English football system. And why not? It already includes teams from Wales, like Swansea City and Cardiff City. The Welsh aren’t exactly known as a football powerhouse, either on the club or national team level, so it makes sense.

  5. I fully embrace the idea of a notional MLS team doing a stadium share with a university. All the arguments about “atmosphere” seem to have difficulty defining exactly how much public money should be provided for good atmosphere. (Many legendary European stadiums seem to provide a lot of atmosphere for not much public money).

    However, if Nashville were to build a football stadium for Vanderbilt that might be an even dumber tack. Vandy has a very well-heeled fan base that could easily fund a stadium worth going 7-6 or 8-5 in every four years or so.

    • Speaking of atmosphere , JD Power came out with their yearly fan experience survey. Once again MLS & NHL teams blew away MLB & NFL teams. So based on the billions given away to MLB & NFL not only shouldn’t public money be gifted for atmosphere but in the case of MLB & NFL it doesn’t help mask the lousy product the pedal.

  6. My own experience fully endorses that. MLS and NHL are smaller, harder core fanbases who are actually treated like customers since they provide most of the revenue. NFL fans are basically part of the product these days–backdrop to an “event” that makes most of its money from TV and schedules accordingly. Because of that–agree that public money isn’t really necessary.

    Although a drive to Foxboro will test the patience of any sports fan–there is little to compare with the sheer misery of driving to a Patriots game on a November night. The Revs do a far better job.

  7. Vanderbilt has close to a $4 billion endowment, and the Nashville MLS backer inherited a fortune from his dad. It is a fitting partnership to try and bilk the taxpayers of Nashville.

    The problem with their plan is that Vanderbilt wants a new stadium -without tapping into its massive fortune to do so- but it really makes no difference to anyone but Vanderbilt’s football program whether they do. They aren’t going to get kicked out of the SEC. Why should any council member care whether Vanderbilt is playing in an old stadium or a new one? They have no leverage.

    What is abundantly clear is that this round of MLS expansion is about nothing but seeing which two cities will build a stadium. They could have easily awarded spots to Cincinnati and Sacramento long ago. At very least, there is evidence they can put butts in seats. What evidence is there that a team in Nashville would work?

    • Great article today at Deadspin on the crushing stadium debt Cal created for itself to “stay competitive.” It is probably an unsolvable problem without default or serious sport cutting.

      In a free-ish market, likely the best stadium choice paid for by a team is bare-bones. That what European teams do just fine.

      • Cal is so screwed cutting sports isn’t even going to be enough. Some of those minor sports cost them MAYBE a million or two a year but they’re going to be needing $20+ million annually just for those stadium payments. AND the university as a whole is in a huge deficit. AND their only two revenue producing sports are going to be bad this year and potentially in most coming years as the austerity measures kick in.

    • The evidence is multiple games over past couple years where Nashville has supported the US national team with great attendance & enthusiasm. It’s why Nashville has sprung to the front of line. Tampa has a stadium ready but blew it on attendance for last game. They’re out ! So no it’s not just about a stadium in a good location , which BTW is very important.

      • How many games have you been to in England? Of the London stadiums, how many well-attended teams have a good stadium in a good location? Nearly zero!

      • The game they hosted this summer was barely more than half full for a one-off tournament game of the national team. 45K “paid” attendance, or at very least announced, in a 69K stadium is hardly great attendance.

        Also, there is no line. It doesn’t do your favorite any good to lie about what is happening. They are trying to get stadiums built with taxpayer money, and will hand franchises out to whatever city pays up.

  8. You can’t compare England football culture and dedication to an MLS team being built from the ground up. MLB has proved a stadium in the right location is part of the equation. Their stadium wave doubled attendance from the 80’s.

    • MLB stadiums aren’t located significantly different now than they were in the 80s. Many of the newer stadiums were built basically next door to the ones they replaced. And numerous studies have shown a new ballpark is a temporary attendance boost. It takes a successful team to consistently draw at the gate.

      • Many where located in visually better locations. Also many were built retro style and with grass fields and easily accessible locations that MLS has suffered from in couple cities with inconsistent attendance. The new parks and move away from sharing multi purpose stadiums with the NFL are the main reason for their attendance and revenue increase from late 80’s. Yes attendance drops after the newness fades but that could take years. In mean Time the team controls all revenue streams where at shared location it was limited if any at all.

  9. There’s one little hitch in this plan to spend more taxpayer money. A few years ago, Nashville/Davidson County residents adopted an amendment to the Metro Charter that specified that the Fairgrounds had to continue hosting events that were ongoing as of 2010. That means that the State Fair (or if it comes to it, a County fair), the monthly flea market, and more importantly, stock car racing are required to be hosted at the fairgrounds. So there’s basically no room for a new stadium there, and it’s unlikely that Metro Council will risk a lawsuit by their constituents by going against Metro Charter.

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