John Ingram has looked at the numbers and the studies and has come to one simple conclusion.
“It’s soccer’s turn in this city,” he said.
The chairman of Ingram Industries also has personal reasons that led him to step up and agree to serve as the primary owner in Nashville’s bid to land a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, but he told the Nashville Post last week that he sees the sport’s place in the local landscape as inevitable.
“I hope it’s a good long-term opportunity for me to work with my family in something that they enjoy and I enjoy,” he said. “I do think it’s great for Nashville. And I think it would be fun.
“… I just think Nashville is ready. We’re a major league city.”
There is no doubt that the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the NHL’s Nashville Predators have greatly enhanced the city’s profile on the national sports landscape. Nashville is very much in the spotlight currently, courtesy of the Predators’ continuing bid for a spot in the Stanley Cup final.
There also is some question as to whether a market that is not among the country’s top 30 population centers has the necessary elements to accommodate another major professional sports franchise.
Undaunted, Ingram and members of the recently expanded MLS2Nashville committee are enthusiastic in their pursuit of the soccer opportunity. Nashville is one of 10 cities under consideration for four MLS expansion franchises, the first two of which will be awarded later this year.
This city still has major issues to tackle, most notably to complete plans for a stadium in which the MLS club would serve as the primary tenant. Ingram called that “a work in progress.”
In the meantime, he is doing what he can to enhance Nashville’s appeal when it comes time to make a decision.
“As the primary owner, they want to know me,” Ingram said. “I certainly am developing my relationships with MLS and hope to develop more relationships with the circle of owners and do everything possible to show MLS that Nashville is irresistible.
“… Certain things are right at the right time and I think we’ve hit a tipping point in this country with soccer. And I think it’s really poised to become a really significant sport with the U.S. population. It’s popular with younger people and as we become a country of more foreign-born residents and whatnot, it is their sport. … I just think its time is now.”