Stick around Nashville long enough, and you’ll find it goes by many names. Of course, most know it as “Music City”, being the seat of all things country music, but that just scratches the surface of this crazy town. Some call it “The Athens of the South” for its renowned collection of colleges. Partiers love “Nashvegas”, hockey fans yell “Smashville”, but whatever you choose to call it, there’s no question that Nashville is everybody’s destination city—at least, almost everybody’s.
Nashville has added around half a million residents in the last decade, and over 15 million visitors walk its streets every year. Basically, it’s in the middle of an unprecedented boom, and while the town’s incomparable music scene, sports teams, and nightlife keep the social calendars full, there’s still one attraction that Nashville would be happy to make room for: a Major League Baseball team. Plans are already in the works to bring Nashville its fourth major sports franchise, The Nashville Stars. Adding this baseball team would be an impressive sign of Nashville’s recent prosperity, but the city isn’t looking for a status symbol. Rather, it’s the logical next step for a baseball-crazed town with deep and meaningful roots in the game.
Nashville Baseball: Then And Now
The MLB may have been founded in 1869, but Nashville was playing ball well before then. The first official game was reportedly played in the Historic Edgefield neighborhood (when it was just called Edgefield), in 1860. This started a groundswell of enthusiasm for the game, and, unlike the South at the time, baseball was for everyone. Soon Nashville was a destination for the Negro Leagues, with the Standard Giants representing the city in the famed Capitol City League. Some of the country’s greatest baseball players made stops in Nashville, to play the Giants, the Vols (Nashville’s top non-Negro League team), and even—you guessed it—the Stars. This Negro League team that called Nashville home from the 1930s through the 1950s was an important piece of the city’s baseball tradition; repurposing the “Stars” name for the town’s newest franchise serves as an homage to Nashville’s rich and diverse baseball heritage.
Why Does A Nashville MLB Team Make Sense?
Indeed, these diverse baseball roots are part of what makes the city so perfect for MLB’s current expansion plans. The Stars would be the first MLB team named after a Negro League franchise, and in the last few weeks, Major League Baseball made the long-overdue decision to include Negro League statistics in the MLB record books. Including the Stars would be another way for the league to honor the game’s neglected past while expanding for its future.
The name, however, doesn’t just pay tribute to the past, it’s also an indication of the kind of people who are passionate about bringing a Major League team to Nashville. We can’t verify this, but we have a feeling it’s the only prospective franchise whose roster of supporters looks like a CMA after-party guest list. The likes of Justin Timberlake, Maren Morris, Darius Rucker, and Eric Church headline a rolodex of celebrity representatives and advisers to the franchise. Tony La Russa, manager of three World Series teams, is at the helm of a star-studded baseball advisory committee, and the Executive Board is chaired by none other than former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Between that all-star leadership and a city that already boasts the third-highest minor league attendance in the country, the Major League has no choice but to take notice.
Is An Expansion Team The Only Avenue For Nashville To Become Host To An MLB Franchise?
MLB expansion is still not a foregone conclusion, but all signs indicate that it’s just a matter of time before Nashville has its own franchise. Although the trials and tribulations of 2020 have gotten in the way of expansion momentum, Nashville still hopes to have a team in town by 2025, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has repeatedly made it clear that he thinks it’s time for growth. Even if the league owners don’t vote to expand, franchises like the Oakland As and Tampa Bay Rays could soon be looking for a new home. Either way, Nashville tops the list of potential franchise destinations. The question is, once a team is secured, where will they play, and what will it mean for Nashville’s flourishing real estate market?
Where Will The Nashville Stars' Stadium Complex Be Built?
Franchise leadership is currently evaluating multiple locations that could house the ballpark complex. The leader in the clubhouse, though, is the parcel of land just across the Cumberland River from downtown, right next to Nissan Stadium. This centrally-located spot would be another boon to the already surging East Nashville neighborhood.
Plans indicate that construction would involve much more than just a baseball field. Surrounding the 42,000-seat stadium, a transformative entertainment and commercial complex would be the crown jewel of Nashville’s recent real estate developments. Swanky office space, upscale condos, a hotel, and shops are all part of the proposal, with new parking garages to accommodate the activity. There’s even a plan to transform the stretch of river into Cumberland Cove, a marina and greenway development—think UT’s Vol Navy with a Nashville twist. It would be perhaps Downtown Nashville’s most ambitious real estate project to date and could have dramatic implications for the surrounding neighborhoods.
How Will A New Sports Complex Impact The Surrounding Real Estate Values?
East Nashville, just across the river from Downtown, is a mostly residential district that has historically provided convenient inner-city residential options. Lately, East Nashville real estate has been on a historic rise. Homes in the district are currently fetching an average of $243 per square foot, making it one of the city’s most expensive areas. Redevelopment efforts usually update or raze older construction, often replace them with large, modern homes carrying million dollar price tags. All signs suggest that a new East Nashville ballpark would only raise these home values even higher.
A case-study from our neighbors to the south: Atlanta
When the Atlanta Braves, the Southeast’s preeminent baseball franchise, announced plans to relocate to a new ballpark just outside of town in Cobb County, home values quickly responded positively. Before the park was even built, homes within a two-mile radius of the stadium started selling for an average of 7% more. Once the Braves started playing in their new home, that number jumped to 8.5%. We know, we know, it’s a bit of a stretch to compare real estate trends along a beltway in Northwest Atlanta to those in the heart of Nashville. However, the complex built by the Braves’ development team, complete with chic shops, restaurants, and hotels, mirrors the multi-use super-site envisioned by the Stars’ top brass. With any luck, home values in East Nashville will get something like the “Suntrust Park Spark” enjoyed by surrounding properties in Atlanta.
The Atlanta stadium real estate bump may not be enough to suggest how a new stadium will affect home values. After all, the Braves are an established franchise relocating to the suburbs—not exactly across the river from Broadway. Fortunately, a recent local example suggests that the same spike in property values will occur. Nashville is currently in the midst of a development frenzy surrounding the construction of Nashville’s new Major League Soccer stadium at the Fairgrounds. Even though the new home for Nashville SC is still under construction, the property gains are already in full swing.
How did the Nashville SC stadium impact the local real estate market?
The Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood, just north of the Fairgrounds toward downtown, has seen its average home sale price jump by 13.4% over the past 12 months, to around $590k. The price per square foot on these homes is steep, usually between $260 and $280. Even though the area has some older homes, newer horizontal property regime developments, some constructed as a response to the soccer stadium news, are helping to drive prices higher. The Nashville SC complex is relatively close to downtown, in an older residential district, just like the potential East Nashville Stadium. Therefore, it’s likely that the new ballpark would inspire a similar spike in the residential real estate market.
What Are The Skeptics Saying?
Skeptics of the Stars stadium project argue that East Nashville is so close to the downtown action that a new ballpark won’t make much of a difference in home values. This is a reasonable, but probably unfounded concern. Just because East Nashville is close to downtown doesn’t mean its home values are anywhere near maxed out. Having a baseball stadium close only adds buyer interest, and would likely accelerate the residential property transformations already taking place in the neighborhood. In all likelihood, property values would reach unprecedented heights as people snatched up homes with easy access to 81 Major League baseball games a year.
Still, nothing is written in stone. The Titans have indicated that they aren’t thrilled about these new stadium plans, and alternative building sites are being explored near Tennessee State University and around Franklin. No matter where the stadium ends up, though, look for the area to become Nashville’s hottest real estate destination.
Our Conclusion: Nashville Is Built For The MLB
There’s no question that Nashville deserves a Major League baseball team. It has the history, the leadership, the brand, and the enthusiasm. Sure there are a few things to work out, but as Stars supporter, Maren Morris says, “When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter”. Nashville is built for Major League Baseball, it’s just a matter of time before a team moves in.