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Vanderbilt Seeks Input on Games at Proposed MLS Stadium

Vanderbilt Commodores

Future Vanderbilt football home games could be played at a different venue, as the university is exploring an arrangement to use a proposed MLS stadium in Nashville.

Nashville officials and business leaders have been making a serious run at an MLS expansion franchise, as a group that includes John Ingram as its lead investor submitted a bid for a franchise in January. While there are still numerous variables to be addressed, some details have been divulged, as Nashville Metro mayor Megan Barry expressed her interest in a private-public partnership for a new stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville earlier this year.

How the MLS bid plays out could wind up affecting Vanderbilt. Earlier this week, the university announced that it was beginning a survey to gauge fan interest in the idea of hosting games at the “hypothetical new stadium.” The announcement stated specifically that an MLS steering committee has approached Vanderbilt to see whether the school “is interested using the new stadium for some of its athletic events, including football games.”

Nothing concrete has emerged to this point, especially since so many questions remain unanswered as to where Nashville stands in MLS expansion bidding. However, it is not the first connection that has been made between Vanderbilt and the proposed stadium. Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams has previously confirmed preliminary discussions with the Steering Committee, and previously toured the Fairgrounds location.

The survey is now in place to gauge interest in the proposed facility, which would be located off-campus, unlike the on-campus Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt has some deep connections to those behind the MLS bid—Ingram is on the board of trust, for instance—and plays in a venue that lacks the modern amenities of fellow SEC football stadiums. More from The Tennessean:

Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty, who started the steering committee last August, said the cost of a new MLS stadium in Nashville could range from $175 million to $250 million.

Williams and Brett Sweet, university chief financial officer, are co-chairing a Vanderbilt committee to consider playing games at an MLS stadium. That committee also includes members of the Vanderbilt athletic department, students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Board of Trust.

Vanderbilt Stadium has undergone multiple renovations since its initial construction in 1922. The 1981 massive face lift was akin to building a new facility, but the current stadium is still a patchwork of the past century. Each of the other 13 SEC schools have undergone at least one major renovation in the past 15 years.

Vanderbilt began the survey on April 25, and will accept responses through May 5. Candidates from the ongoing MLS process could join the league as early as 2020, but it remains to be seen whether Nashville—if successful—would be granted entry in that round, or be one of two cities to join at a later date.

Image courtesy Vanderbilt University Athletics. 

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