If you ask most people who are remotely familiar with the Vanderbilt Commodores football program, they’ll agree that Vanderbilt Stadium is in need of major renovations, if not a complete rebuild (though perhaps some of them will be a bit hyperbolic about the necessity of it, and of course “modernization” is code for “more luxury seating so that the Belle Meade crowd doesn’t have to rub elbows with the proles.”)
Back in September, AD David Williams discussed the possibility of replacing Vanderbilt Stadium, but Nicholas Zeppos quickly shot down that idea, which led to the Tennessean’s Joe Rexrode planting his flag in the “hyperbole” camp. (It also led to a hilarious video with dumb proposals like a football stadium in a temperate climate having a retractable roof, which doesn’t make Vanderbilt fans and alumni look like wimps, not at all.)
In an interview with the Nashville Business Journal, David Williams threw down the hatchet and came up with a dumber idea than remaining in the current stadium: sharing a stadium at the Fairgrounds with an MLS franchise.
Let’s count the ways that this is a bad idea. The Fairgrounds site is not only a full two miles from campus, it’s also in an area of town that I doubt many Vanderbilt students ever venture to. I’ll admit, I lived in Nashville for three years while attending Vanderbilt and I had to look up where exactly the Fairgrounds were.
Second, Nashville doesn’t have an MLS franchise at the present time, and while the city is putting in a bid for one this stadium would almost certainly be contingent on the city landing an MLS team -- and MLS has made clear its preference for teams to play in soccer-specific stadiums. The catch-22 is that by signaling the possibility that a prospective Nashville MLS franchise would be sharing a stadium with the Vanderbilt football team, it’s actually less likely that Nashville would land an MLS franchise. So, I guess this is one way to kill two birds with one stone.
And finally, I can think of no better way to alienate the Vanderbilt fan base. Vanderbilt Stadium is a bad 1980s relic, but the one thing it has going for it is its location. If Vanderbilt can’t simply rebuild (or at least renovate) on the same site, the next-best option would be to build a new stadium specifically for Vanderbilt football, but somewhere off campus in a location that’s still easily accessible to students. If that’s not feasible, well, staying in the current stadium (which isn’t modern, but it’s not falling apart by any stretch) is still a decent option — and if you really want a more modern football stadium off-campus, then call up the Titans and see if they’re willing to share Nissan Stadium.
Sharing an off-campus soccer-specific stadium in a part of the city that’s convenient for basically no one is the worst of all worlds. It would not only alienate a good portion of the fan base, it would also signal to the rest of the SEC and to recruits that Vanderbilt just isn’t serious about football. This ranks only slightly above dropping football entirely or moving all home games to Neyland Stadium.
David Williams is a smart man, and I can only imagine that he’s spitballing ideas to make Nicholas Zeppos understand the need to renovate the football stadium. Of course, moving the football team to a soccer-specific stadium two miles from campus probably fits with Zeppos’ vision for the football program, so who the hell knows how this will play out. But there are worse ideas than remaining in the current Vanderbilt Stadium without renovating it, and this is one of them.