The city of Nashville practically punched its ticket to be one of the cities that receives the next available MLS expansion team by announcing a $250M deal to build a 27,000-seat stadium to house the new team.
To be clear, Nashville has not yet been awarded an MLS bid. Watch the presentation online at https://t.co/jF2EiBJZra
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) October 2, 2017
Unfortunately for everyone not in the ownership group, it will be the city, and by extension, taxpayers, who are on the hook for the bill.
Major League Soccer is growing fast. Two new teams — Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC — were added for the 2017 season, bringing the total to 22 teams in the league. LA is getting a (second) team next year, and Orlando is getting a team shortly thereafter. The league has made its intention to expand to 28 teams in the near future well known, and a handful of cities across the U.S. are fighting it out for the last four expansion teams.
While the rapid and continued growth of professional soccer in the United States is encouraging for American soccer fans, there are some concerns. We won’t get into diluting the talent level of the league by expanding too fast; that’s a discussion for a different day, we’ll talk specifically about Nashville’s bid.
While the MLS isn’t technically making a decision until December, Nashville’s got their team. You can take that to the bank. That is, if you’re a tax-paying resident of Nashville, because you’re footing the bill.
It’s not fair for owners to stick regular people with the lion’s share of the bill for fancy new stadiums (a new stadium being a pre-requisite for getting a team, of course). If you own a pro sports team in America, you’re obscenely rich. Obscene has negative connotations. Incredibly rich is a better way to put it. Rich enough to where you could pay for things like stadiums yourself. But time and time again, it’s the taxpayers who end up paying.
This isn’t just a Major League Soccer problem. It’s a pro sports problem in America. Ask a Chargers fan if you don’t believe me, or a Raiders fan, or a Seattle Sonics fan if you can find one.
Pro sports leagues exist for one reason: to make money. There’s so much money involved in professional sports in America that leagues are able to extract astounding amounts of money from cities willing to play ball, pun intended. The Chargers are paying a $645 million fee to relocate a few hours north to Los Angeles. Not for a new stadium, but simply to relocate. In fact, the NFL’s three teams on the move — the Rams (back in Los Angeles from St. Louis), the Chargers (in Los Angeles from San Diego), and the Raiders (headed to Vegas from Oakland) — will pay a combined $1.7 billion in relocation fees.
While official numbers aren’t out yet, Nashville will be paying MLS a $150 million expansion fee when they are inevitably awarded a team. Without conflating expansion and relocation fees with using public money for stadiums, there’s a lot of money at stake here.
The second problem with Nashville getting a team is that it means either Cincinnati or Sacramento is not getting a team. Not because they don’t deserve them or their fanbases are lacking, but because they don’t have gift-wrapped stadium deals to hand-deliver to MLS. Nashville’s mayor, city council, and ownership group are a unified front; they presented MLS with a deal the league couldn’t refuse, Godfather-style.
It’s great that Nashville is (allegedly) getting a team but the costs of doing so are worrisome.