How would Major League Baseball in Nashville sound? I believe the city of Nashville being able to support a Major League Baseball team is closer than you may think coming from a fellow Nashville resident.
The Oakland Athletics have struggled to find help for a new stadium for the past five to eight years as the city of Oakland and Major League Baseball have been in no rush to solve their stadium woes. With the San Francisco Giants blocking the San Jose market The Athletics have been in a standstill. The Athletics play in a converted football stadium that is severely outdated and makes the local Landfill looks glamorous. Not only is the stadium not easy on the eyes, but also the stadium has had multiple plumbing issues including one issue in which raw sewage flooded the clubhouses of the stadium back in 2014.
This is where I believe Nashville steps in to save the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics have had their Triple-A minor league baseball team, The Nashville Sounds, playing in Nashville since 2015, when the new ballpark downtown first opened. In 2014, the Sounds were playing in an outdated ballpark with the Milwaukee Brewers Triple-A team and were only able to generate an average of 4,909 fans a game and a total gate number of 355,003 fans. In 2015 with the Athletics bringing their Triple-A team to town and a new ballpark being opened the Sounds drew an average of 7,965 fans a game, and a total gate number of 565,548 fans. That is an average attendance increase of 61% of fans per game and a 62% increase of total attendance for the whole season! As I dove through attendance statistics the past 11 seasons the team has never seen attendance numbers anywhere in that neighborhood. If the Sounds can continue building off of those numbers the next few seasons, I do not see how the Oakland Athletics organization can’t be tempted to explore options to relocate to Nashville. With the Athletics being a “home grown” organization in terms of player personnel and depending heavily on their minor league system, Nashville Sounds fans will have a strong sense of comradery already with the players who are playing for the Athletics at the Major League level.
Last year former Nashville Predators CEO and Texas Rangers President Jeff Cogen went on the record according to The Tennessean, and had stated that he believes Nashville can indeed support a Major League Baseball franchise. Cogen has had a heavy hand in success with now Predators CEO Sean Henry of making the Predators successful in Nashville and turning Nashville into a hockey town. Look no further to last month’s NHL All Star Weekend to how the Nashville sports scene has transformed before everyone’s own eyes. Cogen has since taken a job with the Tampa Bay Rays and is making progress towards securing a new stadium for the Rays in Tampa, which still leaves the Oakland Athletics hanging in the balance.
Ironically Nashville was playing host to the MLB Winter Meetings this past December. Local Nashville journalist Maren Angus had asked many high-ranking baseball officials on their thoughts of Major League Baseball in Nashville. “Everybody walks through here and talks about it,” said current Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter. “This is a place that can handle a big league ballpark.” Current ESPN analyst and Vanderbilt graduate Buster Olney also had a strong take on having Major League Baseball in Nashville.
“Well, I’m biased and always feel that way when I talk about this.” stated Olney, “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.”
But how long is too long? Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in America and the downtown area is one of the most coveted tourist areas in the country. Travel and Leisure Magazine recently ranked Nashville as its destination of the year for 2015. There is also the unlimited star power in the form of entertainers and multiple sponsorship opportunities in Nashville to help drive a campaign to bring a team to the city. With the Oakland Athletics in a stalemate between Major League Baseball, the city of Oakland, and the San Francisco Giants, where is the line finally drawn? The Oakland Raiders who are facing the same problems are seriously exploring multiple relocation options as we speak exploring bids from San Antonio and Las Vegas. I believe it is only a matter of time before Nashville offers it’s patented southern hospitality and welcomes home another major sport franchise.