Conversations about building a new downtown ballpark have picked up between Metro and Nashville Sounds ownership, signaling renewed communication after talks deteriorated during the previous mayoral administration.
According to Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling, preliminary discussions have centered on three locations: the 11-acre old thermal plant site near the Cumberland River; a stretch of parking lots north of the Tennessee State Capitol where the historic Sulphur Dell baseball field once sat; and along the river’s east bank close to LP Field.
“We had a meeting with (Sounds ownership) a few weeks ago to just talk about their interest in the stadium and different locations, but we didn’t leave with any proposal,” Riebeling said. “It was really more concept. There’s still a lot more work to do.”
Doug Scopel, director of baseball operations and communications for the Sounds, declined to comment on negotiations.
“We’re not going to discuss that publicly until there’s a time and place to do it,” he said.
Dialogue follows the conclusion of the Sounds’ inaugural season under new owners, MFP Real Estate LLC, a New York-based holding company led by partners Frank Ward, Steve Posner and Masahiro Honzawa.
The group kicked off their tenure by pumping $2.5 million worth of renovations into aging Greer Stadium, a move billed as a recommitment to the team’s fan-base. From the outset, the new ownership also expressed a desire to ultimately move into a new ballpark, preferably downtown.
“They need to sort of flesh their concept of how they think this could get done in a little more detail and then bring us a proposal that we could reflect on,” Riebeling said. “I think they would like to do that in the not-so-distant future, and we’re open to that.”
Dialogue seems to suggest a shift from the Sounds’ rocky relationship with former Mayor Bill Purcell, who in 2007 held the Sounds in default of their obligations on a deal to build a proposed $43 million stadium on the thermal plant site.
By that point, the proposed stadium, along with its accompanied mixed-used components, had crumbled after then-General Manager Glenn Yaeger and Baltimore-based developer Struever Bros. failed to reach a financial agreement.
Disconnection between Metro and the Sounds culminated with city bulldozers tearing up pieces of Greer’s parking lot on opening day that spring to make way for a new visitors center for Fort Negley.
Riebeling, who called the thermal site land “one of the most important pieces of property in the city,” indicated any ballpark there would need to incorporate more greenery and complement the city’s plan to redevelop the riverfront.
“We don’t want to see a mass development on that site, like what was proposed when it fell apart a few years go,” Riebeling said.
As for constructing a new stadium near old Sulphur Dell, where the Nashville Vols played baseball until the 1960s, Riebeling said much of it is state-owned property.