Ian Ayre - Nashville - CEO doing interview
Courtesy of Nashville MLS

Nashville SC and CEO Ian Ayre keep rolling with the punches of a tumultuous first year

The last six weeks have been a rollercoaster for Nashville SC

From building to their inaugural MLS season and their home debut, to ironing out a snag in their stadium construction, to responding to the natural disaster caused when a tornado struck the region in early March, the club has had no choice but to roll with the punches.

In that sense, the suspension of the season due to the the COVID-19 pandemic is just one more blow.

"It's been a challenge," Nashville SC CEO Ian Ayre said on a roundtable conversation alongside Nashville Predators CEO Sean Henry on Wednesday. "I'm a big boxing fan, it's like being a prizefighter. We had really good energy building up, but then we had an issue around our stadium so it felt like we got punched in the face and knocked down. But after that we have our opening game, then two days later there's the tornado. Smacked in the face again."

The club are working to be in the best possible position for when the league returns, whenever that may be. All they can do is try to plan. 

"We're doing a lot of scenario planning with different types of outcomes, but nobody really knows," Ayre said. "... It's hugely challenging, but we'll get there. We'll all be back playing at some point and that's the most important factor."

In the meantime, Ayre is ensuring the club's supporters are getting enough communication from him. Every Wednesday Ayre joins broadcaster Jamie Watson for a virtual happy hour on Instagram live. Fans submit questions for Ayre to answer, over a few cold beers.

"The fact that I get to drink free beer every Wednesday night is even better," Ayre joked. 

Ayre is also staying connected with fellow professional sports teams in his new city. 

Nashville SC and the Predators will share ideas about how to restart their seasons whenever the NHL and MLS give the green light for their sports to resume. 

"Ian reached out to me the other day about building a network between our two franchises," Henry said. "What do we have to do operationally for both our teams to come out of this? Just sharing ideas, best practices. It's nice to have a community of sports and entertainment companies in our city that really work closely together. He's the new guy in town, but you wouldn't know that in the past two years he's been on the scene as an active member. It's fun to take on challenges in the community with him." 

Back when Ayre was really new in town, a happy coincidence led to the CEOs fast-tracking their relationship. 

"I get up one morning, cup of coffee in one hand and wearing boxer shorts and nothing else. I go out to get my newspaper and there's some weird English guy with a beard in his boxer shorts with his coffee getting his newspaper," Henry said amid laughs. "I discovered Ian moved in across the street, it was a lot fun for the both of us. Our daughters are similar age, we'd get together sometimes. ... It really was nice. We'd probably stay out a little too late, sharing stories getting to know each other."