Nashville, Tennessee, received an early Christmas present last year, in the form of a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion club. Nashville was one of 12 cities with ownership groups vying for four possible expansion clubs, and on December 20, MLS made the announcement that the music city would be the first to be awarded a new team. Though the official announcement happened in late December, Nashville has been working toward a new team for well over a year. This includes plans for a completely new stadium.
Early designs for the 27,500-seat stadium surfaced mid-2017, with plans to position the pitch in the Fairgrounds, home to the Tennessee State Fair, located in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. While details about the stadium are still being worked out, HOK will lead the design, adding it to the long list of stadiums the international firm has worked on in recent years.
The road to a new professional soccer team and the subsequent stadium has been a long one for Nashville. The 12 other cities attempting to secure an expansion team included Detroit, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and St. Louis, just to name a few in the region. While the bid has garnered popular support from the city and state, not everyone was pleased with the proposed placement of the stadium.
In late 2017, before Nashville had been awarded the expansion position, a local lawyer filed a lawsuit against Metro Nashville. The suit alleged that the city had violated its charter by proposing a stadium at the Fairgrounds, a park which is designated for the annual state fair and other public events. Just days before the official MLS announcement, a court sided with the defense and dismissed the case, helping pave the way for the team’s new home.
While the stadium is expected to cost around $250 million, an additional $40 million will be spent updating the Fairgrounds, which are in need of numerous infrastructural improvements. A tentative timeline has construction beginning by the end of 2018, with the team’s first season starting in 2020. During construction, the grounds will remain partially open in order to continue hosting fairs, public markets, and events.
Since 2004, 14 teams have joined the MLS. Nashville will be the 24th team in the league, which hopes to be up to 28 teams in the near future. For this round of expansion, Nashville set itself apart by pointing out that it had played host to a number of well-attended international matches in recent years.
Though the club has not announced official colors, a logo, or even a name, the city council will soon be reviewing the stadium plans for approval. With the already-expressed support from the mayor, that process is expected to go well.
Who knows? It may be only a matter of time before the sound of soccer chants, accompanied by steel guitars and fiddles, spill out of honky-tonks across the city.