In a lavish ceremony at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame Wednesday, Governor Bill Haslam, Mayor Megan Barry, and a slew of local dignitaries gathered on stage with a full house in attendance to hear Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Gaber announce that, after a long and arduous bidding and review process, Nashville has been awarded an MLS expansion club.
Mayor Megan Barry’s Twitter feed broadcast the moment of the announcement :
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) December 20, 2017
The investment group Nashville Soccer Holdings, LLC will form the ownership of the Nashville MLS team, which is led by John R. Ingram, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc. “Ingram’s partners in the soccer club include Minnesota Vikings owners Mark, Zygi and Leonard Wilf, and the Turner Family, managing partners of Nashville-based MarketStreet Enterprises,” according to the MLS website.
“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,” Commissioner Don Garber 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,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “Let’s make this Tennessee’s team.”
Sports Illustrated reported that Nashville was considered to be an underdog for this expansion:
Far from the expansion radar before the summer of 2016 and considered a long shot when bids were submitted last January, Nashville and Ingram beat out 11 other markets to become the first club approved during the current round of expansion. MLS eventually plans to pause at 28 members and the 23rd, Los Angeles FC, will kick off in March. Nashville is considered the 24th because David Beckham’s Miami project still hasn’t received final approval or admission.
Comissioner Garber praised the Nashville owners: “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.”
Sports Illustrated also credited Ingram, noting that “The owner’s billions, his deep local ties and his productive relationships with leading political figures also played an obvious and significant role in Nashville’s success, as Ingram was able to forge a stadium deal (which includes 10 acres of mixed-use development), win over the MLS board and recruit Minnesota Vikings owners Mark, Zygi and Leonard Wilf as co-investors.”
The plan to build a soccer stadium in Nashville to house the MLS franchise has been controversial.
The Metro Council voted 31 to 6 to “approve $225 million in revenue bonds for a soccer stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds despite concerns about the fairgrounds’ existing uses as well as the growing list of costly city projects,”over the objections of some Metro Council members.
‘Save Our Fairground’ then filed a lawsuit to stop the MLS soccer stadium construction, which was ultimately dismissed.
The Nashville Sports Authority was a finalist for the Beacon Center’s 2017 “Pork of the Year,” as The Star reported.
The Beacon Center described the Nashville Sports Authority in these terms:
The practice of subsidizing stadiums with taxpayer money is becoming less and less popular nationwide, yet the city of Nashville seems to have no plans of slowing down. As we start to have a discussion about a new MLS stadium, which will be heavily subsidized by taxpayers, it is time we take a stand and stop this corrupt and unethical practice.