A group seeking to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Nashville has released ballpark renderings, the latest step in an effort that has plenty of ground to cover.
Businessman John Loar is leading Music City Baseball LLC (MCB), a group that is exploring the idea of landing Nashville its own MLB franchise. Loar is joined that effort by former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and retired MLB pitcher and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart, with Gonzales serving as board chairman and Stewart a board member. There is also a broad slate of advisors attached to the effort, including Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa and Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin.
Under the vision that the group is presenting, the Nashville franchise–to be named the Stars–would play at a new retractable-roof ballpark constructed at a city-owned site on the East Bank of the Cumberland River near Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Construction of the ballpark would be privately financed, and the facility would anchor a larger development initiative that includes an entertainment district, condos, and offices.
On its website, MCB says that its goal is to secure an MLB expansion franchise, but that it would be open to acquiring and relocating an existing team. The group also mentions the 2024 season as a targeted opening date for the ballpark, though there are still numerous questions remaining. For starters, MLB has plenty of factors it must consider before moving forward with expansion, including the uncertainty of several facility situations among current teams. The Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays are perhaps the two most pressing challenges within the league, as the A’s are continuing to plan a new ballpark at waterfront Howard Terminal while the Rays received permission this summer to explore a possible split-season arrangement between Tampa Bay and Montreal. There are, however, a few other situations that are somewhat unsettled–including those of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels, and Toronto Blue Jays–and may at the least give MLB pause before it proceeds with any expansion plans.
MCB, which is striving to lay the groundwork so it is ready to take action once expansion or relocation becomes a possibility, still has to commission a feasibility study to gauge whether Nashville is ready to support an MLB franchise. It will also continue seeking investors for what will be a costly effort. Along with the billions it will likely cost to acquire or launch a franchise, the group would have to privately finance a ballpark in a market where public funding seems unlikely. The city has already made a financial commitment to an upcoming MLS stadium that will open in 2022 and it appears that discussions about major renovations to Nissan Stadium are inevitable.
Nashville’s major sports scene currently includes the NHL’s Predators and the Titans, with Nashville SC to begin MLS play next spring at Nissan Stadium before moving into its new soccer-specific facility in 2022. The market is currently home to a successful Minor League Baseball franchise in the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), and all indications have been that the club’s First Horizon Park cannot be expanded to meet MLB standards.
Renderings courtesy Music City Baseball.
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