Source: Nashville Business Journal
Major League Soccer has officially selected Nashville as an expansion market.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Mayor Megan Barry and Gov. Bill Haslam joined John Ingram, the lead investor in Nashville’s soccer push, for an event confirming the city’s selection Wednesday afternoon. They were joined by a rowdy crowd of hundreds of team supporters.
The official news came a day after initial reports of the event spurred celebration among the city’s soccer faithful, and consternation from the fans of cities Nashville beat out.
When Bill Hagerty and Will Alexander first threw Nashville’s hat in the ring in 2016, “Nashville was not on our radar screen at the time,” Garber said Wednesday. But as conversations went on, “we became not only intrigued, but really excited about this city.”
“Nashville is a city on the rise,” Garber said, adding that Nashville’s effort truly took off when billionaire Ingram came on board as the team’s lead investor.
“In our lifetimes, there are only so many … days like this … where you can welcome a professional team at the highest level. And this is one of those days,” Ingram said Wednesday.
“In the past 12 months, nobody has had a better city to work with. The enthusiasm of this city is infectious, and it all really matters,” Ingram continued. “It’s a special moment for a special city.”
Supporters of Nashville’s quest for an MLS team, first launched by Hagerty and Alexander, argue landing a franchise adds yet another feather in Nashville’s cap for wooing and retaining talent and businesses. The construction of a stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville also is expected to juice development along Nolensville Pike, an area that’s already begun to attract significant investor interest.
It was not immediately clear when the team will begin play. Earlier this year, Metro Council approved a financing plan for the fairgrounds stadium, but that facility is not expected to be ready for the team until 2021.
Meanwhile, the city’s lower-tier United Soccer League team, Nashville SC, is set to begin play at First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds, this spring.
Ingram said Wednesday that he planned to use the Nashville SC name for the MLS team, unless demand to change it materializes. It’s not yet clear, at that point, what will happen to the USL franchise.