Should Vanderbilt play football games at MLS stadium? Fans surveyed – The Tennessean

Should Vanderbilt play football games at MLS stadium? Fans surveyed – The Tennessean
  • Quick tour of Vanderbilt Stadium
  • Fans talk about Vanderbilt Stadium

Vanderbilt is asking its fans via a survey if they would attend football games at a “hypothetical stadium” shared with a Major League Soccer franchise.

Nashville is among 12 cities being considered for four MLS expansion franchises, and Mayor Megan Barry has proposed a “private-public partnership” for a new soccer stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville.

Vanderbilt is polling undergraduates, season-ticket holders, single-game ticket buyers and other selected participants in a survey to “determine interest in holding some future athletics events in a new (MLS) stadium,” including football games, according to a university news release.

The survey was launched Tuesday and will close May 5. It was emailed directly to selected participants.

“It is designed to gauge how much demand there is for a hypothetical new stadium and game day and fan experience factors that will make fans more or less likely to attend games there,” the release said.

The Vanderbilt release said the university was approached by the MLS steering committee about its interest to use a new stadium for athletic events. Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams is one of the 22 members of that steering committee. And John R. Ingram, a member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust, is the lead investor in Nashville’s proposal for an MLS team.

Last September, Williams told The Tennessean that talks had accelerated for a new Vanderbilt football stadium, but he initially preferred it to be on campus.

“Off campus? You never say never, so we’ll look at it,” Williams said in September. “But there are sports that seem to play on campus better, and football is one of those.”

Williams added that he was open to a possible partnership with an MLS franchise if it created additional revenue for the university. That option now seems more plausible with the launch of the fan survey.

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Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty, who started the steering committee last August, said the cost of a new MLS stadium in Nashville could range from $175 million to $250 million.

Williams and Brett Sweet, university chief financial officer, are co-chairing a Vanderbilt committee to consider playing games at an MLS stadium. That committee also includes members of the Vanderbilt athletic department, students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Board of Trust.

Vanderbilt Stadium has undergone multiple renovations since its initial construction in 1922. The 1981 massive face lift was akin to building a new facility, but the current stadium is still a patchwork of the past century. Each of the other 13 SEC schools have undergone at least one major renovation in the past 15 years.

Joey Garrison contributed to this report. Reach Adam Sparks at asparks@tennessean.com and follow him on Twitter @AdamSparks.

VANDERBILT STADIUM TIMELINE

1892: Old Dudley Field (later Curry Field) first used as home field.

1922: New Dudley Field dedicated as first stadium in South used exclusively for college football.

1949: New press box and seats added to west side for capacity of 27,901.

1960: Additional seats on east side expands capacity to 34,000.

1970: AstroTurf installed for $250,000.

1981: Major renovation/new construction yields Vanderbilt Stadium.

1998: JumboTron video screen installed as Tennessee Oilers play home games there.

2002: Dudley Field natural grass surface renovated after upgrades in 1999.

2003: North end zone bleacher section removed.

2009: Gates 2 & 3 renovated.

2011: New natural grass playing surface installed.

2012: New artificial turf, video board and berm seating in north end zone added.

Source: Vanderbilt (vucommodores.com)

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