When John Loar sat back and took a 30,000-foot view of professional baseball teams across America, Nashville and the Middle Tennessee region stood out as a potential site for a Major League Baseball franchise. The first order of business involved assembling a star-studded roster of business and entertainment icons to advance the project's mission.
That objective has largely been achieved when organizing the Music City Baseball roster. Along with John, top organization leaders include former United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, local attorney and philanthropist Lee Barfield, former Titans’ standout Eddie George, community activist Gail Williams, and syndicated media personality Bobby Bones.
"I'm so excited to join the initiative to bring Major League Baseball to Nashville," says Bobby. "Our city is second to none in bridging together sports and music, making it the perfect destination. I'm thrilled to help push forward the movement by joining Music City Baseball's efforts to honor the incredible history of the Nashville Stars, as well as pave the way for the future of MLB in Nashville."
Nashville is home to three major league sports teams: the NFL's Tennessee Titans, NHL's Nashville Predators, and USL Nashville Soccer Club. Also, the Nashville Sounds are the AAA minor league affiliate of MLB's Milwaukee Brewers. In 2015 the Sounds began to play in their new ballpark located near downtown Nashville.
Today there are 30 MLB teams, and this Nashville group is rolling out the city's bright red carpet with hopes of becoming one of the two teams that could join MLB's elite ranks. The effort is generating excitement, yet the group realizes the climb ahead is steep. There is no guarantee of success.
For starters, the MLB does not have any immediate plans to expand, and two teams within its ranks - Tampa Bay and Oakland - have financial challenges. Both are attempting to finance new stadiums. Current owners are grappling with slumping revenue as a result of COVID-19. Nonetheless, the Nashville group understands that hitting lots of singles and getting on base is the first step to scoring.
Former MLB all-star and general manager Dave Stewart is also helping bring big-league baseball to Nashville. One of his objectives is to create a team which includes minority ownership, and Middle Tennessee seems to fit the bill.
"We believe Nashville is one of the top sports cities in the world," John stresses. "Our efforts to acquire an MLB team involve more than baseball. Building a venue to host entertainment events in addition to baseball is our goal. I know our entertainment advisory board members are excited at this possibility."
Nashville has two avenues for securing an MLB franchise. The first is expansion, meaning the MLB owners vote to add additional teams. The other option is for an existing team to relocate to Music City.
One significant advantage is their efforts to engage majority-minority ownership groups along with Nashville's historical ties to one of several Negro League teams. Even more significant is that Nashville has proven it is a major league sports city with the money and business expertise to match.
In September of 2020, Music City Baseball announced a partnership with Old Hickory Bat Company to create limited-edition bats. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
"I join the many others in celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Negro Leagues," Board Chair Alberto Gonzales noted when making the announcement. "We look forward to tying Nashville's rich baseball history with its bright baseball future. We believe Nashville is ready for Major League Baseball."
Nashville's history of minority baseball teams dates back to the early 1920s when the Nashville Elite Giants, owned by Tom Wilson, won several championships. Over time teams such as the Nashville Black Vols and Cubs evolved into the Nashville Stars. Jackie Robinson integrated professional baseball in 1947. By the early 1950s, Negro league teams struggled to stay profitable, and the league soon folded.
Although the effort to acquire an MLB franchise is complex, MCB is checking the boxes of the fundamental "to-dos" which include conducting feasibility studies, working on site selection for the ballpark and entertainment complex, and preparing for a possible acquisition, relocation, or expansion of an MLB franchise. This groundwork is being done in preparation for a possible 2022 presentation to MLB,
MLB baseball front-office executive and two-time World Series winner Dave Dombrowski, accustomed to working with winning organizations, is also helping. Although he accepted a job as President of Baseball Operations for the Philadelphia Phillies, his experience building winning teams will certainly benefit Nashville.
The first step is building a solid foundation of community support. When looking at Music City Baseball’s organization structure, one sees a roster of major league who’s who already on board.
John says plans include a covered stadium with a retractable roof. Potential sites presently include a downtown location, a site near the Tennessee State University campus, or possibly a location in Williamson County.
"Meetings with Williamson County officials have been encouraging, and we're hoping for the same response from Metro Davidson County leaders soon," notes John.
A key point that John emphasizes is that ideally any proposal to MLB owners should demonstrate a positive revenue stream. One way to achieve that goal is to make sure the venue can host other events such as concerts, conventions, and family-oriented events.
Judging from the list of music industry advisors, a new MLB ballpark and entertainment venue could see performances from the likes of Justin Timberlake, Darius Rucker, Luke Combs, Maren Morris or Eric Church.
All these exciting possibilities make finding funding a priority. The organization is raising funds to cover the preliminary costs for creating the proposal. Arranging stadium financing is the most significant challenge. The goal is to fund construction without relying on public money.
One benefit certain to be highlighted in the proposal is Nashville's ability to draw fans from neighboring counties and South-Central Kentucky and North Alabama.
"Sports are a huge part of the lifestyle in and around Middle Tennessee," John emphasizes. "Given the area's demographics and lifestyle desires, we're confident we can acquire stadium financing and offer residents and visitors alike an incredible product of sports, music, and culture."
But what about the Nashville Sounds? Can a new MLB team and the Sounds coexist? John believes the answer is "yes,” in one form or another.
The earliest a Nashville Stars team could take the field is 2025. For that to happen, the baseball stars must align correctly. There is no doubt with the excitement and support thus far, Music City is ready for what pro baseball players refer to as "The Show".
"Ideally, we would love to see a National League team in Nashville compete against neighboring National League team like Atlanta,” exclaims John.
Quote from Dede:
"I am thrilled to be a part of a community of leaders bringing together the history of the game, honoring the culture and diversity of the sport and creating opportunity for Nashville."