As part of its ongoing effort, a group exploring the idea of bringing a Major League Baseball franchise to Nashville will meet with league officials next week.
Businessman John Loar is leading a group that is exploring the idea of landing Nashville its own MLB franchise, with a new ballpark surrounded by mixed-use development envisioned as part of that objective. Next week, Loar will be joined by Alberto Gonzales–a former U.S. Attorney General, and current chairman of the group’s strategic advisory board–at a meeting in New York City with MLB officials.
It is expected during that meeting that Nashville boosters will learn more about the process of obtaining a franchise. In discussing the upcoming meeting, Loar indicated that the group is trying to lay the groundwork for securing a future MLB expansion team. More from the Tennessean:
“As you know, to reach the goal of securing an expansion team for Nashville the work begins now,” Loar said. “By work, I mean building the foundation for the future.”
Loar began discussing a plan in January to bring a major league franchise to the city, including a proposal for a new ballpark and mixed-use development on property near Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Titans, or the nearby PSC Metals scrap yard on the East Bank.
Loar has put together an advisory group that includes Gonzales, currently the dean of Belmont’s law school, as well as Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin, former major league pitcher Dave Stewart and longtime major league manager Tony La Russa. The group has also launched a website, mlbmusiccity.com.
Mayor David Briley told Loar during a 2018 meeting that no public funds would be available to bring baseball to Nashville.
At this point, any effort in Nashville to land an MLB team faces plenty of questions, including the timing of potential expansion. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has openly shown interest in eventually jumping the league’s number of teams from 30 to 32, and indicated in comments last summer that Nashville is on the league’s radar as a potential market. However, any expansion could be years away, as MLB has two pressing facility situations unresolved with the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays both seeking new ballparks. Neither is publicly expressing interest in a move at this point, as the A’s continue to pursue a new ballpark at Oakland’s Howard Terminal while the Rays are locked into a lease for Tropicana Field that runs through 2027 and have not ruled out the idea of trying to find a solution for a new ballpark in St. Petersburg.
Questions about the timing of MLB expansion will take time to answer, as will the broader question of whether MLB can fit into a Nashville market that already includes NFL and NHL franchises, with an MLS expansion team on tap for 2020. With plenty of work to do, next week’s meeting could give Loar and the group a sense of what Nashville has to achieve over what would likely be a long process in pushing to obtain an MLB franchise.
Nashville is home to a very successful Minor League Baseball franchise in the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), who have played at First Tennessee Park since its opening in 2015. 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.