SBD/August 8, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Nashville's MLS Expansion Bid Gets Boost With Addition Of Wilf Family To Ownership Group

Mark Wilf has a longstanding relationship with the man in charge of Nashville's bid
Nashville's bid for an MLS expansion team "received a boost" with the announcement that the Wilf family has "joined the organization's ownership group," according to Jeff Carlisle of ESPN FC. Nashville businessman John Ingram "will remain the group's majority owner while the Wilf family has acquired a minority stake." The Wilfs, who own the Vikings, had "previously attempted to bring an MLS expansion franchise to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, but lost out" to eventual Minnesota United Owner Bill McGuire last summer. Ingram and Mark Wilf had a "longstanding relationship due to the fact that both serve" on the Vanderbilt BOT. That led to the "beginning of talks between the two earlier this spring." The addition of the Wilfs is the "latest development that strengthens Nashville's bid." Following a visit from MLS Commissioner Don Garber earlier this summer, Nashville "hosted a pair of matches whose combined attendance exceeded 100,000 fans." The group also is "making progress towards building a stadium that involves a private-public partnership" (ESPNFC.us, 8/8). In Nashville, Joey Garrison in a front-page piece reports the Wilfs represent the "first out-of-state ownership stake to the local effort, while also adding cache and professional sports expertise to Nashville's MLS pursuit." Ingram shot down "any suggestion that the involvement of the Wilf family undercuts the local roots" of the bid. He said that the group is "'a blend of both local and non-local' that has retained a majority local status." Ingram added that there "will be other local minority owners as well" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 8/8).

BRINGING STADIUM EXPERIENCE: Ingram said that "stadium savvy" is one reason he was drawn to the Wilfs as investors. In Minneapolis, Rochelle Olson notes stadium plans are "crucial to winning an MLS franchise." Ingram next week will make a "stadium presentation to the city and regional governance councils." He said that he has a "site on the fairgrounds in the city and that he will seek public assistance in the project" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/8).

INTEREST SOARING
: In N.Y., Ken Belson writes under the header, "As Appetite For Soccer In U.S. Grows, So Does MLS." Instead of seeing teams "fold or move, the league has investors ready to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on expansion fees and stadium construction." Garber said new stadiums, sponsors and players emerging from the league’s new academy programs “empower anyone running a sports league.” Meanwhile, the pace of MLS expansion "has been dizzying." MLS critics "contend that the league’s chase for new markets -- and ever-rising expansion fees," now at $150M per club -- have "diluted the quality of the product on the field." Revolution Investor/Operator Jonathan Kraft said, "Eight, 10 years ago, the discussion was whether the league was going to survive. Now, it’s how high is the ceiling? I think we’re only getting started" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/8).
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