Could Major League Baseball expand to Nashville?
By: Maren Angus
Nashville, Tenn., home to the NHL’s Predators, the NFL’s Titans, the PCL’s Sounds and this year’s Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.
Chatter amongst the crowds this week has been how much everyone loves coming to Nashville. If one were to walk around downtown on Broadway after dinner, he or she would have run into someone in town for the meetings. The big question though is, can Nashville be a future market for Major League Baseball to expand?
ESPN Baseball Analyst Buster Olney said he thinks that one day it could be a possibility.
“Well, I’m biased and always feel that way when I talk about this.” said the Vanderbilt grad, “I know the passion for sports in the area and having gone to school here knowing how I think people respond to professional sports. When you look at a map it’s like in the perfect spot. It’s just far enough away from Atlanta. It’s just far enough away from St. Louis and from Cincinnati. I think if they put a team here, it would do really well but I think we’re a long way away from that.”
For the last several years, there has been chatter about the Tampa Bay Rays leaving South Florida. On Oct. 29, the Rays rejected a counter offer from the city of st. Petersburg that would have allowed them to search for a new stadium site in exchange for an exit fee.
Enter Jeff Cogen. Yes, the same Jeff Cogen who was CEO of the Nashville Predators. Cogen’s last day full-timewiththe Predators was November 30 and then he began working part-time with both the Predators and the Rays until Feb. 1. Cogen inherited a franchise who struggling on the business and marketing side and he is doing the same in Florida.
Granted he is a Florida native and got his start in St. Petersburg with the Ringling Bros. Circus but could the two moves be on another level?
“I think baseball is devoted to trying to make it work in Tampa Bay and in Oakland and so I think that at some point baseball will look for two expansion teams because they have 30 teams,” said Olney. “To balance out the leagues they need 32 teams. At some point that conversation is going to happen.”
If expansions are the way to go, MLB would have to look at how well the sport is doing at the Triple-A level. By the looks of the numbers from last season, things are looking good. When First Tennessee Park opened its doors on April 17, 2015, a sell-out crowd of 10,459 showed up. The Sounds went on to record 19 sellouts in 71 games and had the highest attendance in the last 25 years (565,548).
“Let’s face it, baseball is always looking for revenue streams and if they were to put up for auction two expansion teams, they could make probably a billion dollars now and I would hope Nashville would be one of the highest bidders,” said Olney. “Think about it, the 2021 Nashville Sounds Major League team, David Price at the end of his career would come back, Sonny Gray, think about how much fun all those guys would have together.”
Former Sounds’ greats Buck Showalter and Don Mattingly, who were teammates in Nashville, both like the idea of Nashville being a possible expansion team.
“Everybody walks through here and talks about it.” said Showalter, “This is a place that can handle a big league ballpark.”
“They were talking about that when I played here,” said a smiling Mattingly. “I don’t understand the dynamic of Atlanta and the proximity of teams always changes things. This was a great place to play, it’s a great city and I really enjoyed my time here. It would be a good place to come, hit Broadway for a night or two.”