Don’t Get Your Hopes up About MLB Coming to Nashville

 In MLB, Nashville

You hear sometimes that talking about things makes them real. It’s been a month since Buster Olney initially said he could see Nashville and Portland vying for MLB’s two expected expansion teams. At the time, it seemed little more than speculation, but at least it gave us something to write about in June.

Now, it seems that speculation has much more solid footing than we even realized. Courtesy of The Tennessean:

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday mentioned Nashville among a short list of possible expansion cities as the league explores growing from 30 teams to 32.

Manfred, who is in Washington D.C. for the MLB All-Star Game, was asked to name potential locations during a television appearance on Fox Sports.

“We have a real list of cities that I think are not only interested in having baseball, but are viable in terms of baseball — places like Portland (Ore.), Las Vegas, Charlotte, (N.C.), Nashville in the United States, certainly Montreal, maybe Vancouver, in Canada. We think there’s places in Mexico we could go over the long haul.”

There hasn’t been a confirmed timeline. It hasn’t even been confirmed that the MLB will indeed expand to 32 teams. But, it sure sounds like, from MLB’s perspective, they’re at least trying to flirt with the Music City. But, could it work in the immediate future? What does the city’s Mayor think about all of this?

Mayor David Briley has not indicated that pursuing an MLB team — which would require a new stadium with the city’s help — is on his priority list.

“It’s flattering,” Briley said of the commissioners’ remarks. “but my full focus right now is on bringing Major League Soccer to the city.”

Yeah, it’s bad timing. Now, again, we don’t know a timetable for the potential expansion, and these things don’t typically move too quickly. But, if this is going to happen within the next few years, there’s no way Nashville could support such a project for a myriad of reasons.

Namely, they’re still trying to get MLS and USL franchises off the ground. That’s the focus right now, straight from the Mayor’s mouth. You’re asking an awful lot of the city’s sports fans to buy season tickets for the Tennessee Titans and the Nashville Predators. But, now – you should support MLS and USL soccer while you’re at it. Oh, and don’t forget to support the Nashville Sounds in their beautiful brand spanking new stadium, too! Nashville simply doesn’t have the numbers as it stands. It may be a popular city, but it doesn’t mean we’re a big city just yet. Gotta think about the population.

MLB would be a bit overkill at this point. Plus, the locals I’ve talked to have said they’re perfectly content to go to their Sounds games in the Summer time and remain Atlanta Braves or Chicago Cubs fans. Is there even really a demanding public interest in all of this?! I don’t know. But, it goes far beyond public interest into something much more daunting: does Nashville even have the money for a MLB franchise right now?

J.R. Lind of Nashville Patch summed up the economic issues better than I could, so I’ll just steal his words here:

Given the long-term debt outlays Nashville had to make for the Music City Center and the Sounds stadium and those that will be required for the soccer facility, the chances of a municipally-funded stadium seem slim, particularly with the Titans and Preds leases coming to an end. While Bridgestone Arena, which remains in the top 10 American venues for concert ticket sales, has stayed fairly well updated, what is now Nissan Stadium was built on a shoestring and was essentially outdated the day it opened, fueling speculation the team will ask for an extensive overhaul or a wholly new facility.

Nashville is already ranked near the top for long-term municipal debt per capita among American cities and is coming off a difficult budget season that opened with the shock revelation that, despite all the chatter of an economic boom, Metro was in a revenue crunch.

Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see MLB in Nashville some day. But, if that some day is today, then I don’t think it works out. Unfortunately, the ship may sail this go around. Maybe in 20 years, MLB decides to expand to 34 teams. But, as I said a month ago:

To me, this question really depends upon the timeline. When is MLB looking to add a team? If they want something within the next couple of years, I’d say there’s no way. At least, not without seriously jeopardizing the chances of the Sounds, Nashville SC, and the MLS succeeding.

But, these things typically take a while to develop. So, if we’re talking upwards of five years, maybe even closer to 10, I’d say Nashville stands an excellent chance of supporting another pro sports franchise.

If Manfred comes out and says, “guys – relax….we’re going to expand in 2025,” then, maybe I decide to sing a different tune. A lot of factors would figure into that decision. But, if this thing moves by 2020-22, I say, “don’t get your hopes up, Nashville.”

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Alabama Crimson Tide football, the WWE, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley

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