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MLS Stadium Proposal Gaining Momentum

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We really have to ask ... why?

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Nashville MLS group unveiled its stadium proposal to the Metro Council as part of an effort to secure public financing for the stadium to be built at the Fairgrounds site, pending Nashville being awarded an expansion franchise.

Also present: Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor/Athletic Director David Williams. Williams stated that Vanderbilt is exploring the possibility of relocating home football games to a new Fairgrounds stadium, if it’s built.

At this point, we have to ask: why is this still going on?

Earlier this year, Vanderbilt took what was essentially a push poll of fans and alumni, asking fans if they’d be interested in all sorts of upgrades to Vanderbilt Stadium before ending with, basically, "would you want an off-campus stadium that came with all of the things we just asked you about?" Anchor of Gold responded with an unscientific poll of AoG readers that found that only four percent of readers want a new stadium off-campus. The Tennessean’s Joe Rexrode also recently took the temperature of the Vanderbilt fan base and found deep opposition to the idea of moving the football team off campus.

We don’t know the results of the survey that Vanderbilt took, but the continued push toward moving the football team off campus in spite of opposition from fans and alumni is striking. Nobody wants this to happen, and yet it simply will not go away. So you really do have to ask just what is going on here?

Well, part of the answer could be found in the poll we conducted. While just four percent of readers want to move off campus, only eleven percent want Vanderbilt Stadium left as is. (Full disclosure: I’m in that eleven percent.) While few fans actually want to move off campus, many fans do see the need for upgrades to the current stadium. I’ve always thought the "need" for a new stadium or major renovations is vastly overblown, but I’m in the minority on this — granted, this also has a tendency to get wrapped up in arguments over Vanderbilt needing to "do something" with all that SEC Network cash. I would guess an opinion poll about an off-campus stadium looks very different if presented as a choice between leaving Vanderbilt Stadium as-is, or moving to a brand new MLS stadium.

That essentially seems to be how Vanderbilt sees it. The best option is to build a new stadium on the current site, or at least to perform major renovations on it, but the Vanderbilt administration for whatever reason doesn’t consider that an option.

Still, the current push to move off campus is coming off as extremely tone-deaf. Nobody actually wants this to happen, but Vanderbilt is exploring the option anyway — because they won’t even consider the obvious choice.

Of course, this is all moot if Nashville doesn’t get an MLS expansion team, in which case the Fairgrounds stadium will never get built. But if Vanderbilt does move there, will there be a fan base left to move with it?