MLS, Nashville at odds with new mayor over stadium project

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Major League Soccer and its new Nashville team say Mayor John Cooper refused Thursday to commit to moving ahead with a stadium plan approved under the previous mayor.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and team officials met with Cooper at the league’s office Thursday in New York City to discuss the team’s stadium project. The soccer officials said they want an answer by Feb. 6.

MLS and Nashville issued a joint statement, saying the team has worked over the past four months to improve the stadium deal with new proposals to address concerns of the mayor, who took office in late September.

The league said in the statement that Garber made clear that MLS would not have awarded Nashville an expansion team without the city’s commitment to build a soccer stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds location.

”The Mayor’s continued refusal to proceed is a deep disappointment,” the league and team said in the statement.

Cooper must approve demolition of some old exhibition buildings for construction to begin on the stadium. The team will be working with Cooper’s office over the next week trying to finalize a plan to start that phase.

”We hope for a mutually agreeable solution and expect to have an update regarding the project by February 6,” MLS and Nashville said in the statement.

Nashville is scheduled to begin its debut season Feb. 29, hosting Atlanta at Nissan Stadium, home to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

”Since entering office four moths ago, I’ve worked towards a complete solution for the Fairgrounds that is both financially sustainable and results in a successful, unified site plan,” Cooper said in a statement. ”This past week, I met with racing advocates as well as MLS. I appreciate MLS and its advocacy for professional soccer in Nashville. I also appreciate all parties are working together to improve the plan for he entire Faiground, both in design and financing.

”I will continue to chart a path forward that makes good financial sense for all of Nashville’s taxpayers.”

Nashville chief executive officer Ian Ayre said in August the project would cost at least $50 million more than original estimates and the team would be investing up to $75 million in additional money. The Metro Nashville Council approved a $275 million project in November 2017.

MLS granted Nashville an expansion franchise in December 2017 after the council’s vote.

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