Don Garber, Nashville SC Celebrate Reaching MLS Stadium Deal
MLS Commissioner Don Garber and expansion club Nashville SC Owner John Ingram on Thursday celebrated a signed stadium agreement with Mayor John Cooper, "ending four months of arduous negotiations to revamp an existing deal and allow the club to begin building its new stadium at the Fairgrounds," according to Gentry Estes of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Appearing at an event put on by Nashville SC on Thursday, Garber said, "I could not imagine that one person would hold up the commitments of the city and the passion of the people who live here. So I was surprised we were where we were and hopeful and optimistic we'd get to where we are today." Estes notes while the topics discussed on Thursday "included some soccer talk," the "stadium issue was still prominent on lips and minds." Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre said the delay was "disruptive" for the club. He added, "We've sold thousands of season tickets and tens of thousands of tickets to the opening game. Whenever you hit this type of roadblock, you have to have concern." Estes notes the club's future in Nashville was "feeling less secure by the day" and it is "difficult to know how close to the brink this ordeal put the city's future in MLS." While Cooper had "some support for his stance," his endgame "wasn't clear, and the indications weren't looking good" about reaching an agreement. Reflecting on the delay, Garber said that he has "never dealt with anything like this" and "doesn't expect to again" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 2/14).
CHECKING OUT THE DETAILS: In Nashville, Meg Garner noted changes to the MLS stadium deal include the club paying an additional $19M to "help cover infrastructure costs." Under the original deal, the city of Nashville would pay up to $35M to "account for any gaps between ticket and sales tax collections and the team's lease-payment obligations." That guarantee has "been eliminated." The club also will "amend the design of its 10-acre mixed-use development 'to account for an open plaza that can serve the operational needs of multiple fairgrounds uses.'" Cooper and Ingram's "standoff was largely sparked over a parcel of land flanking the city's historic racetrack, a parcel that was included in the mixed-use development the team plans to build surrounding the stadium." Under the new deal, the club will "retain control over that parcel, something Cooper wanted them to relinquish." A portion of that parcel will "now be redesigned to accommodate both the development and the plaza that Cooper was championing." Cooper said that he will "continue to pursue a deal" with SMI to "revitalize the city's racetrack," though it is "unclear what that deal might entail" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/13).
DISASTER AVERTED: SI.com's Brian Straus wrote without Thursday's agreement, MLS "might have faced a crossroads unlike any in its history." Straus: "Go forward in Nashville without the stadium, and you're stuck playing in a cavernous NFL venue in the country's 28th-largest media market. And expansion team owners spending millions on new stadiums elsewhere would feel indignant, to say the least." Pulling the team from Nashville would have been an "enormous embarrassment" (SI.com, 2/13).