Vanderbilt University will not move its football program to a proposed Nashville MLS stadium, according to an announcement issued on Wednesday. In confirming that it will continue to call its current on-campus facility home, however, the university left open the possibility of using the MLS stadium for occasional events.
Over the last several months, there had been much discussion over what role—if any—Vanderbilt could play in the stadium. Nashville’s bid for an MLS franchise is being led by John Ingram, who last month unveiled a concept for a new facility at The Fairgrounds Nashville.
While the new stadium could be designed to accommodate football, Vanderbilt would have to shift its games off-campus to move to the facility. The university issued a statement on Wednesday, indicating that it continues to support the MLS bid., but that football will not be relocated off campus. “We are excited at the prospect of a Major League Soccer franchise in Nashville as it further exemplifies our city’s rise as a dynamic and diverse global community,” the statement read. “While we plan to continue to support Nashville’s bid for an MLS team, we are not moving Vanderbilt football off campus. Dudley Field will remain the home of Commodores football.
“We know a new stadium will be part of the success in bringing MLS to our city. To enhance opportunities for our students to branch out and experience more of Nashville, we are exploring the opportunity to lease the proposed new soccer stadium for one or two Vanderbilt events per year. If it meets the needs of our fans, students, alumni and team, this could also include leasing the stadium for a football game, similar to what we have done in the past with Nissan Stadium, which received a great response from our community.”
In making this decision, Vanderbilt assures that football will for now remain on-campus. In the time leading up to this announcement, there were signs that opposition to moving the football program was building. More from The Tennessean:
Some Vanderbilt fans and students had blasted the idea of a shared, off-campus football stadium. Many had warned that a program that has historically struggled with attendance would face even more difficulties filling seats.
“Save Dudley” stickers were seen getting passed around to fans before Saturday’s game against Alabama. The Vanderbilt Hustler reported this week that the school’s student government body was considering a bill to express opposition to an off-campus move.
What remains to be seen from here is whether Vanderbilt will make a serious run at a new or significantly renovated stadium to bolster its standing in the competitive SEC. Much of the current Vanderbilt Stadium dates to 1981—when the last major update was completed—but the site has been used for Commodores football since 1922.
Renderings courtesy HOK Architects.
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