Businessman John Loar is leading an effort to bring Major League Baseball to Nashville, a city that could factor into future expansion discussions.
The possibility of future MLB expansion appears to be viable at this stage, as commissioner Rob Manfred has openly shown interest in eventually jumping the league’s number of teams from 30 to 32. In comments last summer, Manfred indicated that Nashville is on the league’s radar as a potential market, but MLB has still not formally committed to expansion and there is no timeline in place for when it could add a pair of new clubs.
To explore the possibility of a Nashville MLB team more closely, Loar has formed Music City Equity Group to focus on bringing a future franchise to the city and tie a ballpark project into a larger mixed-use development. He has had previous conversations with public officials about his effort, but there is much that remains to be explored at this point. MLB has not announced formal plans for expansion, while Loar will also have to figure out where an MLB team and ballpark would fit into a market that already features the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, NHL’s Nashville Predators, and will add an MLS expansion team in 2020. More from the Nashville Business Journal:
Although Loar describes himself as the head of a group, in an interview, he said he’s self-funding his analysis and there are no formal agreements with any potential investors. Loar said he hasn’t yet talked with Major League Baseball’s Manfred about his efforts.
“I just wanted to spend time furthering my research on the Nashville market,” Loar said. “It’s really just on my own dime. Nobody’s paying me to do this.”
Financing and location are two top questions in game-playing where a possible baseball stadium would go. The east bank of the Cumberland River immediately jumps to mind, including the 105-acre River North development site, adjacent to the Topgolf entertainment complex. The stadium might also fit on some of the parking lots surrounding Nissan Stadium, where the Titans play.
Nashville’s minor-league franchise, the Nashville Sounds, moved from the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood to Germantown in 2015. A report done for Metro when it weighed that move identified the East Bank as an option, as well as property on Charlotte Avenue now home to the Capitol View mixed-use development.
Nashville is currently the home of Minor League Baseball’s Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), who have made First Tennessee Park a success since its 2015 opening. All indications are that First Tennessee Park cannot be expanded to MLB standards, so in that case any effort to bring MLB to Nashville would require a new ballpark. In the near term, the focus for city officials will continue to be on completing an upcoming MLS stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville.
Along with the questions surrounding the ballpark situation, there are still many uncertainties about the potential for MLB expansion. The Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays still have unsettled long-term ballpark situations, and neither franchise has shown signs to this point that it is exploring a move. (The A’s are currently pursuing a new ballpark at Oakland’s Howard Terminal, while the Rays are locked into a lease at St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field that runs through 2027.) There are also groups in other cities that are lining up their MLB efforts, including Montreal, Portland, and Las Vegas.
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