In the grand scheme of things, seven years is not that long. If you try telling that to the Nashville Sounds’ front office, though, you will probably hear a very different story.
Sports fans in Nashville are very aware of the saga of a new stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate. Since the millennium rolled around and fears of Y2K dissipated, fans have been promised a new stadium to replace the aging and increasingly decrepit Herschel Greer Stadium. 2006 finally brought progress with the Metro City council agreeing to a new stadium. Plans were drawn up for First Tennessee Field, only to have those plans scrapped after the Sounds were unable to finalize plans with developers.
A new group of investors finally purchased the team in 2009 and pumped $2 million dollars into the money pit of a stadium in an effort to keep the dream of Nashville baseball alive. The stadium saga had become so common place that a story line in the TV show “Nashville” revolved around the building of a stadium.
Finally, though, there appears to be progress on the horizon.
On October 24, Mayor Karl Deen, along with various city officials, gathered in the City Market area to discuss plans for an $80 million dollar stadium complex complete with a parking garage and residential development. The plan would place the stadium at Sulphur Dell, the location of Nashville’s historic stadium that was demolished in 1969. Even more encouraging is the fact that Governor Bill Haslam has stated that the state would be willing swap this state owned land with the city of Nashville.
Sure, fans should remain cautiously optimistic. After the plans for First Tennessee field were discarded, it seemed like the city would let the Sounds continue to toil away in what is one of the most outdated stadiums in the Pacific Coast League. There is plenty of reason to get excited, though. Not just for fans, but for the city as a whole as well.
You would be hard-pressed to find a sports enthusiast who would like to see the Sounds fail. Failure of the Sounds would mean the end of professional level baseball for the foreseeable future in the city of Nashville, forcing fans to travel to Memphis for in-state baseball above Double-A level. For any baseball fan, this is not exactly ideal.
A new stadium would likely lead to a great deal of success for the Sounds, ensuring that they stick around. For the sake of argument, let’s look at the Columbus Clippers, a Triple-A team for the Cleveland Indians.
Columbus has a market roughly the same size as Nashville and provided the Clippers with a brand new shiny home field in 2009. Huntington Park is a stadium that was built for $70 million, seating 10,100. This is approximately what the new Sounds stadium will seat.
In 2008, the Clippers attendance was nearly 100,000 below the leader of the International League with 537,889 according to miilb.com. In 2009, a new stadium was brought in and the Clippers saw a 23.97% increase in attendance, marking them the highest in attendance with 666,797.
Applying this to the Sounds paltry 355,003 from last season, attendance would immediately go up to 440,097. Better yet, the Clippers attendance has remained over 600,000 since then, meaning this was not a one-time boost. That would bring in close to $700,000 more in a single season for the Sounds than in prior seasons. There is no way this money would not boost the economy.
If that was not enough of a reason, consider this: for years, fans have clamored for a Major League baseball team to call their own. The city working with the Sounds on a new stadium is just a single step in making this a possibility in the future. Why would an owner want to locate a team here if there is no way to work with the city in regards to a stadium? This project would show any potential team that Nashville does mean business and takes care of its teams.
If all goes according to plan, these past seven years will be forgotten by opening day 2015. The city will see a boost to the economy and the benefits that come with having a top notch stadium in the city.
Hopefully it will not take seven more years to see this dream become reality.