Nashville group, mayor make formal proposal for MLS expansion team

The ownership group attempting to bring an MLS team to Nashville released details of its $250 million stadium plan for the first time on Monday during a meeting of the Metro Council.

Nashville Soccer Club Holdings, led by John Ingram, last week reached a "private-public" deal with the mayor's office to build a stadium at the city's fairgrounds site in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood.

The Metro Council then heard details of the plan and learned the price tag at Monday's meeting, which was attended by Mayor Megan Barry, Ingram, and others involved in the project.

MLS has stressed the importance of a soccer-specific stadium to the success of any bid, as it plans to award the first two of its planned four expansion teams.

Ingram's group said the league was looking to announce the first teams in "early December." The Metro Council, which could authorize a resolution on the stadium proposal as early as Oct. 17, must take action by late November to meet MLS's deadline for this year.

"I think we're absolutely ready for this," Barry said. "Nashville is a soccer city."

The ownership group touted a "90-10" private-public financing plan, with the government only contributing $25 million in bonds for infrastructure costs, though it is also being asked to provide $200 million more in revenue bonds that will be repaid by Ingram and his partners through lease payments and taxes from money earned at the stadium.

The group said the stadium would seat 27,500 fans. It had previously been planned at 30,000, and could have expanded to 35,000 if it was shared with Vanderbilt for football, but the university said last week it was no longer interested in moving games off-campus.

The potential MLS team plans to begin play in 2020, though it would need to find a temporary home for one season before the new stadium opens in 2021.

"We are making this investment in Nashville because we believe in this city," Ingram said. "This is a can-do community, and we know bringing Major League Soccer here is something sports fans want. We are an international city, and soccer is the world's sport."

Ingram's group, which also plans to start a USL team next year, announced in August that the Wilf family, the majority owners of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, was also joining its bid.

MLS commissioner Don Garber visited Nashville this summer, as the city hosted more than 100,000 combined fans at the NFL's Nissan Stadium for U.S. national team game during the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Manchester City-Tottenham in the International Champions Cup.

The other 11 locations vying for MLS expansion teams are Sacramento, Cincinnati, San Diego, Phoenix, San Antonio, St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa, Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, and Indianapolis.