A story in The Tennessean on the post-Sounds future of Greer Stadium raises the possibility that Pennsylvania's Harrisburg City Islanders soccer team is looking to relocate south as early as 2017.
From Joey Garrison's story:
Eric Pettis, majority owner of the Harrisburg City Islanders, a club in the United Soccer Leagues, met with Nashville officials in the fall about the possibility of moving his team to Nashville, perhaps to Greer. His goal is to stay in Harrisburg, but the club's ownership team has been unable to move forward on getting a new stadium there.
"Soccer in this country is growing like crazy and you've got to look at whatever opportunities are out there," said Pettis, who has explored other markets in addition to Nashville. The hope would be to relocate by 2017 if the team picks that route. He called Greer and Nashville "definitely one of the better options we're looking at."
After the Nashville Metros folded in 2013, Nashville was a void on the American soccer ladder. A social-media movement ultimately led to the creation of Nashville FC, a supporter-owned club that competes in the National Premier Soccer League (the supporters-backed group merged with Nashville Atlas, which was intended as a traditional, ownership-group controlled club). The NPSL is on the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid (the Metros were also on that level); Harrisburg's USL is the third tier.
The scuttlebutt about Harrisburg has, understandably, raised the ire of Nashville FC backers — there are now 800 or so member-supporters of the club — who feel they've been left out of the conversation about the growth of pro and semi-pro soccer in Middle Tennessee, despite regularly drawing 1,500-2,000 fans to games last year at Vanderbilt's soccer complex.
"When I first read the article, I immediately felt a level of disrespect for our club and our members. Then it turned to feeling sorry for those in Harrisburg who have supported that club for all those years. Leveraging a city like that goes against everything we stand for at Nashville FC and to think the local soccer community would just turn a blind eye is a bit arrogant on their part. We’ve worked very hard to create a first class NPSL organization and first class product on game days…our supporters recognize that and we love them for it," Chris Jones, Nashville FC's president of business development and the man whose tweet started the ball rolling for Nashville, said to the NashvillePost.
Chairman of the board Marcus Whitney wrote an impassioned post on Facebook, which read in part:
I didn't think I'd react this way, but I'm pretty furious about this. I've been hearing rumblings from all sorts of people around town about other groups trying to bring a team here, and the fact that these folks wouldn't even speak to the leadership at Nashville FC is a total smack in the face to the local supporters. And don't say you didn't know we existed.
Harrisburg City Islanders... This is Our Town, and Nashville FC is Our Club. You wanna come here? Talk to us first.
Any move to Greer, according to Garrison's story, is far from a done deal, though one of the other interested tenants — a rodeo operator — said Metro's response to his proposal was less than enthusiastic and a representative for Kroger said the grocery company was in "wait and see mode."
Apparently, the most popular proposal for the future of Greer, at least among folks in the neighborhood, is for expanded green space, but if that isn't the answer Metro chooses, and if the Harrisburg City Islanders want to make their future in Nashville, they'll have a vociferous group of locals pushing back.
Nashville FC, which begins play next month in the National Premier Soccer League, has a home.
The franchise announced Wednesday that it will play at Vanderbilt’s soccer stadium, which has a capacity of 2,400.
The first of six scheduled home matches is scheduled May 24. The season-opener is set for May 10 at Knoxville.
“I'm tremendously excited because without a doubt, this is the top soccer facility in Nashville," coach Bryan Johnson said in a release. "It was my first, second, and third choice, and I'm thrilled we got it. Plus, a big thanks to the Vanderbilt Women's Soccer coaches and the rest of the athletic department as well - they really went to bat for us.”
The team, led by Johnson, has begun to assemble its roster through open tryouts in March and recent contests against college teams Martin Methodist and Belmont.
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