MLS Commissioner Don Garber made the announcement in front of a packed house at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nashville is the first of 12 cities vying to get the bid for the MLS expansion team.
“Nashville is a rising city with a passionate soccer fan base, a dedicated ownership group and civic leaders that truly believe in this sport,” Garber said in a statement. “Nashville continues its ascent as one of America’s most dynamic communities, with its incredible energy and creativity. For us, that makes it a perfect place for MLS expansion. John Ingram and his partners had a plan to bring MLS to Nashville during the last year and they executed it at every level. Thanks to their vision, the soccer fans of Tennessee will soon have their own MLS club and a state-of-the-art soccer stadium that undoubtedly will be a centerpiece of the community.”
Watch the announcement below:
In an email from the MLS2Nashville group earlier this week, it was announced there will be a "significant announcement about the future of soccer in Nashville." Special guests in attendance included MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, and John R. Ingram, head of the group bidding for a Nashville team.
“This is a great day for Nashville and the result of a true team effort from so many people across our wonderful city,” Barry said. “Nashville’s soccer fans have supported the movement for a Major League Soccer club from the moment the bid was launched, and John Ingram and his partners, the MLS2Nashville Committee, and local leadership worked together to do what was right for our city. I’m so proud that Major League Soccer has welcomed Nashville to the league. The team and its world-class stadium at the Fairgrounds will be economic engines for business across our community and a place where diverse parts of the community can come together with common purpose.
"Tennessee has truly grown into a global brand, which makes us a terrific fit for a sport that’s followed by fans around the world,” Gov. Haslam said. “MLS has made a great choice and I want to thank everyone who worked so hard. This is another feather in the cap for Nashville and will only add to the growing economic environment in Tennessee.”
Nashville had been named among four finalists in the bid for a team, joining Cincinnati, Detroit, and Sacramento. Ingram made a case for the expansion team in Nashville earlier this month to the MLS in New York.
Two expansion teams are up for grabs and Music City's approval for a $275 million soccer stadium is believed to have put the city in good position to be one of the two selected.
Leadership for the Fairgrounds Nashville said they're excited to work on the plans for the new stadium.
“The Fair Board is excited about the opportunity to work with stakeholders to plan nearly $40 million in improvements that is part of the stadium deal," Fair Board Chairman Ned Horton said in a statement. "Detailed planning will begin after the first of the year with an emphasis on accommodating our partners at the Flea Market, Tennessee State Fair, racing, and other expo events. We are proud of the success of The Fairgrounds and its events, despite long-standing infrastructure, technology, equipment and aesthetic issues. Our progress over recent years is a testament to the staff, dedicated event promoters and vendors, and the 1.5 million guests that visit each year. We look forward to enhancing the appeal of The Fairgrounds so that even more Nashvillians can experience all it has to offer.”
Fairgrounds Nashville Executive Directir Laura Schloesser said the fairgrounds will be open throughout the construction process, and they'vre strengthened their partnership with the flea market to continue its operations.
Nashville's stadium plans
Metro Nashville approved a $250 million, 27,500-seat stadium on the Nashville Fairgrounds. At the time of the proposal, Mayor Barry said 90 percent of the funding for the stadium will come from the MLS ownership group and revenues generated at the stadium. The MLS ownership group will be responsible for lease payments for the facility used for debt service of the revenue bonds and covering any construction cost overruns.
The proposed site for the stadium is approximately 10 acres of land at the Nashville Fairgrounds. Mayor Barry said the land is underused and would support 'mixed-use, mixed income development which will include affordable and workforce housing.'
Not all Nashville citizens are on board with the stadium. A group opposed to the stadium called 'Save Our Fairgrounds' filed a lawsuit with Metro Nashville. That lawsuit has since been dismissed.
"The court decided that we filed the lawsuit too soon because Metro had not yet violated its own laws," Jim Roberts, attorney for "Save the Fairgrounds," said. "But when I do, you can be certain that the lawsuit will be refiled and prosecuted vigorously. We are not going to let the Metro Government give away our parklands and destroy an important part Nashville’s history."
Save Our Fairgrounds held a protest outside during the MLS announcement on Wednesday.
Other factors in Nashville's bid
Nashville hosted a series of high-profile soccer matches in recent years that boatsed record numbers for the Music City soccer fans in attendance. Nashville hosted the CONCACAF Gold Cup opener between the U.S. men's national team and Panama. According to the AP, the July 8 game drew 42,622 fans to Nissan Stadium, and 56,232 people attended a preseason exhibition on July 29 between Manchester City and Tottenham.
A U.S. women's national team match against France in March 2016 was attended by 25,363.
Another x factor in all this is how the decision affects Nashville Soccer Club, which is scheduled to kick off its inaugural season in the USL in 2018.
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This is a breaking news story and will be updated with the latest information as it develops.