Nashville MLS bid up against aggressive timetable

Nashville's MLS bid continues to build up steam as John Ingram, who is leading the MLS-to-Nashville effort, introduced conceptual designs for a 30,000-seat stadium at Fairgrounds Nashville in a presentation to Metro Council members on Monday.

Rendering: HOK/M2N

Fairgrounds. The stadium design includes a lower bowl, standing fan area and special corner kick areas as well as a plaza area. Fairgrounds Nashville is located in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood, about a mile south of the downtown urban core. The stadium would be built on the west side of Nashville Fairgrounds, where the racetrack and park would remain. Other fairgrounds would be renovated or built. The fairgrounds property is owned by Metro Council, the Nashville city government.

Vanderbilt football. Vanderbilt University is interested in moving its football team to the new stadium with a possibility of expanding the stadium to 35,000 for Vandy football. Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams joined the MLS2Nashville group in support of the fairgrounds stadium plan.

Financing plan. Nothing has been finalized in terms of a stadium deal but Ingram says it will be a "private-public partnership" and "won't be a token commitment." The Metro Council, as well as the Board of Fair commissioners and Sports Authority board of directors, would have to sign off on the stadium project.

A bill has already been passed to allow taxes collected at the soccer stadium be used by the Metro Sports Authority to offset the cost of the stadium. (Both NFL Titans and NHL Predators use ticket taxes to generate funds to pay for venue costs.)

Next steps. Any approvals by the Metro Council will have to made at its October meeting or by November to fit MLS's December deadline for picking the 25th and 26th teams.

Council reception. While council members were generally positive about the idea adding another team to Nashville's stable of sports teams amid its growing reputation as a big sports town -- the NHL Predators reached the 2017 Stanley Cup final -- several right off the bat presented questions about the viability of MLS and its rapid expansion, each referencing a recent Deadspin article, and the aggressive timetable for what one member said was a "big ask."

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