Don Garber, John Ingram, Ian Ayre - Nashville SC stadium event tweet
Courtesy of Nashville SC

How Nashville SC stadium deal got over the finish line

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A trip to Major League Soccer’s New York City headquarters in late January was the lynchpin in getting Nashville SC’s stadium legislation over the finish line. Alongside club owner John Ingram, Mayor John Cooper sat down to hash things out.

Shortly thereafter, Ingram issued a joint statement with MLS Commissioner Don Garber, in which they expressed disappointment in the mayor’s continued hesitance to act. That statement, outlining a number of financial commitments made by Ingram, started to move public sentiment in favor of NSC.

“I can say that I wanted the general public to know what we were willing to do, and how much good faith we were willing to listen to what the mayor’s issues were, and we were responsive to those,” Ingram explained of going public with his additional financial commitments to the project. “We took [Cooper’s issues] off the table and were expecting to get an agreement maybe done a little bit sooner than that, but we got it done.”

Other options for the stadium were not under consideration. The league and club ownership expected Cooper to follow through on Metro’s commitment — passed in Metro Council and signed by the previous mayor.

With a fan-oriented event scheduled in Music City Thursday evening, dawn broke with no indication of movement from City Hall. As Ingram and Garber ate breakfast at the Omni Hotel, site of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Annual General Meeting, a crucial phone call came through.

“[My general counsel explained] we got the signatures, and that was very relieving to hear,” Ingram said. “I didn’t know it was signed until first thing this morning.”

And that’s when Ingram was first optimistic a deal would get completed.

As part of Ingram’s agreement with the city, he made a number of additional financial commitments to the city, in addition to those he’d previously made. In return, he was promised an immediate turnaround at beginning the demolition of some of the buildings that must be cleared to begin construction. That process should begin this weekend. 

That should allow the club to move forward, with the energy that’s been devoted to a battle in the local government turning into an effort to put the best possible team on the soccer field.

“The feeling is one of relief,” said Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre. “We’re not happy, we’re relieved that we can finally move forward again.”