The SportsBusiness Journal is out with another examination of which cities have the most overextended pro sports dollar based on total aggregate income versus the necessary outlay for each city's teams competing in Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL.
Nashville is still one of 20 cities in the red, as the 16th most overextended city, with the projected outlay to support the Titans and the Predators exceeding income by $10.5 billion. The good news is that number has improved. As noted in an October 2010 City Paper report on the feasibility of MLB in the Music City, Nashville's deficit to support pro football and hockey then was nearly $17 billion.
Things are moving in the right direction.
Don't freak out, Predators fans, but Shea Weber sold his Hillsboro Village condominium Tuesday.
No reason to panic, as he still owns a home in Green Hills, according to property records.
Weber bought the condo in The Enclave back in his first full season in Nashville in 2006. He bought a new home three years later, but held on to the condo.
Weber, like so many other folks selling in this market, took a bit of a bath on his condo. He paid $383,900 for it five years ago and has sold it for $320,000. But it's doubtful there will be any tears shed: Remember that the Preds' captain just scored a franchise-record $7.5 million contract from a league arbitrator.
It's nearing 24 hours since Titans single-game tickets went on sale and the franchise has set a post-Super Bowl XXXIV record for futility.
Last year, the games sold out in four hours. Previous to that, tickets never lasted more than two hours. Only in the team's first year on the east bank did tickets last longer than a day.
Team Vice President Don MacLachlan noted that the Oct. 30 date against Indianapolis is almost sold out and roughly 2,000 tickets remain for each of the rest of the home dates. He said the team expected a slowdown:
"We knew there were a lot of intangibles that we couldn't control, i.e. the lockout, people not knowing whether there would be a season or not, focusing so much of our attention on season ticket holders, the economy, the price of gas," he explained, adding, "We've talked to a lot of people over the course of the summer and we weren't exactly sure how it would turn out but we are very encouraged that there are not a whole lot of tickets remaining in the games."
The NFL broadcast blackout rules apply during the preseason as they do during the regular season, but MacLachlan told George Plaster yesterday afternoon the team has corporate partners lined up to buy any remaining tickets for Saturday's opener against the Vikings, ensuring a local broadcast on WKRN.
Meanwhile, Predators COO Sean Henry tells us things are going swimmingly at Fifth & Broadway. The team "should find [themselves]" selling 10,000 season ticket equivalents, "if not more" — up from 8,500 last year — and new season ticket sales are double what they were before last season. "We're up dramatically," he said. Meanwhile, Henry's former employer, the Tampa Bay Lightning, have parlayed a surprising season and doubled its season ticket sales.
Bridgestone Arena is in the Top 10 for ticket sales among American venues, according to Pollstar's mid-year report.
Bridgestone Arena ranks ninth in the United States and 23rd in the world for concert attendance, according to international trade publication Pollstar’s Mid-Year Ticket Sales report. These numbers are up from the 2010 Mid-Year Pollstar numbers, which saw Bridgestone Arena rank 23rd in the U.S. and 48th in the word for concert attendance.
“In 2010, Bridgestone Arena achieved its most successful year to date,” Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena Chief Operating Officer/President Sean Henry said. “We couldn’t be more excited to build off that outstanding success in 2011. We fully expect to continue our presence in Pollstar’s Top 10, which allows us to move closer to our ultimate goal of becoming the Number One sports and entertainment venue in the world, with a Stanley Cup winning Nashville Predators team as its centerpiece.”
Yesterday, the Nashville Metros and Fifth Third Bank inked a sponsorship deal with an eye to upgrading the soccer team's Ezell Park facilities. The idea is to bring them up to snuff for a move to the next-highest tier in the American soccer hierarchy. The team's GM told me that the organization would like to start the formal process of bringing Major League Soccer to the Music City in "three to five years."
In a City Paper cover story a few weeks ago, David Boclair vetted the possibility of the MLS (and other non-Big Four sports leagues) coming to Nashville. Setting aside questions about aggregate income and whether Nashville's dollars will stretch to support a third team for just a moment, let's consider what, from a facilities standpoint, it would take to bring top-flight soccer to Nashville.
First, the MLS (for the most part) now requires soccer-specific stadiums for its expansion teams. Gone are the days where an MLS team can share a stadium with a professional or college football team, though the league waived the requirement for the Seattle Sounders, which share Qwest Field with the Seahawks. (It helps that the Sounders have a season-ticket base of more than 30,000.)
The capacities of soccer-specific stadia for the MLS range from 18,000 to 27,000, though when the San Jose Earthquakes open their new facility next year, it will seat 15,000. There's no hard and fast capacity floor, though most seat 18,000 to 20,000. They are intimate settings, not in need of retrofitting from football. For a great example, check out Sporting KC's $200 million Livestrong Park, which opened this year, paid for through tax-increment-financing backed municipal bonds. Stadia in Chicago, Dallas and Columbus — all of which have opened in the past 12 years — came in under $100 million.
A new stadium would have to be sited, of course. Ezell Park, off Harding Pike near the jail, is, in the words of Scene park reviewer Betsy Phillips, "huge." It comes in at 163 acres. For some perspective, Livestrong sits on 11 acres with an adjacent 58 acres earmarked as part of a larger redevelopment scheme.
Ezell Park is associated with the Metros and the team does indeed have a 40-year lease with Metro. From a pure geographic standpoint, it is well-positioned for a soccer stadium with easy access from I-24 and Briley Parkway, near the fast-growing Antioch and close to a large Hispanic population.
The park also has great views of the Stones River ... and the jail and the backside of the airport.
Here's where the second bird comes in: Keep in mind that soccer-specific doesn't necessarily mean single-purpose. Many new parks — Livestrong, Ohio's Columbus Crew Stadium and others — are technically "soccer-specific" but can be easily converted into concert venues because they have permanent stages built into the structure and because a soccer goal is easier to put into storage than football goal posts.
Several important people and groups have for a while been clamoring for an open-air music venue near Nashville's core. Here is a chance to build one and be prepared should the Metros growing into an MLS franchise: Why not locate a stadium/concert venue at the Fairgrounds? It provides the same demographic advantages as Ezell Park with interstate and arterial access for not only the large immigrant population along Nolensville Road, but the suburban soccer families of Rutherford and Williamson counties. The city could follow the Kansas City model and use the stadium as an anchor for a large redevelopment scheme and create a new gateway into downtown via Nolensville.
Alternatively, a future soccer stadium could slot nicely into the spot where Greer Stadium now sits — assuming, of course, the Nashville Sounds get their new home elsewhere in or near downtown.
At both of those sites, we could work toward the Metros' goals in steps: Before going full on with a 20,000-seater — or even a third that size for lower-league play — the stadium's skeleton could be partially built as a music-only auditorium. Then, as the Metros grow, so could their stadium.