Group Says ‘Monumental Progress’ In 2020 To Bring MLB Team To Nashville

A Major League Baseball team for Nashville makes more sense than ever with legal sports betting in the state. A group formed to try to bring a team to the Music City said in a newsletter this month that 2020 has marked “monumental progress” for its efforts.

Music City Baseball, forged to push for a big league team in the state’s most populous city, this year has brought on the likes of Justin Timberlake and Eddie George to help lobby. Both have Tennessee roots, and former Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski was also a recent addition to the group’s board.

Timberlake joined the group in September as an investor, followed by George in late October. George will play a key role with Music City Baseball, serving as a board member and chair of its soon-to-be-formed Real Estate Advisory Group.

George “will advise the development of a multi-faceted entertainment complex to be the home of the future Nashville Stars baseball team,” a presser stated. George has a degree in landscape architecture and urban design from Ohio State University. He’s also the founder of EDGE Landscape Architecture and will collaborate with the architecture firm Moody Nolan to plan the potential project.

A site for a proposed stadium and entertainment venue hasn’t been nailed down yet.

“I am deeply committed to Nashville and understand how sports can energize and unite in a lasting way,” George said in a statement. “Our drive to bring MLB to our city also combines two of the things I love most: sports and landscape architecture. It’s a pleasure to be able to collaborate with Moody Nolan, an all-star in its own right, and nationally admired for their engaging conceptual plans and designs.”

The addition of George marks a major milestone in the group’s plans for a venue.

“Eddie’s magnetic leadership and creativity — coupled with Moody Nolan’s groundbreaking work in planning and design — will assure that we bring forth a sports and entertainment complex that is nationally prominent and uniquely Nashville,” said John Loar, managing director of Music City Baseball. “Our goal is to give fans an ‘out-of-this world’ experience and we have assembled the team who can do just that.”

Retail sports betting at proposed facility?

Sports betting has slowly but surely made its way into some arenas and stadiums in the U.S., though progress there has been stunted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, retail wagering on-site at a sports contest will become more commonplace as the U.S. sports betting industry develops.

Under current law, a professional sports complex in Tennessee could not have a retail sportsbook. Tennessee law only allows sports wagering to be conducted over the internet. A new law would have to be passed to allow retail sportsbooks at existing or future stadiums.

That could be a heavy lift for the Tennessee legislature, which historically isn’t very fond of gambling. Gov. Bill Lee, who let the sports betting legislation become law in 2019 without signing it, has said that he doesn’t want any other forms of gambling expansion to hit his desk during his tenure. He was elected in 2018, so he could very easily be out of office by the time any Nashville MLB stadium is built.

Major League Baseball has not announced any plans for an expansion team or for relocation of an existing franchise. It’s unclear if Music City Baseball has a preference.