A Thank You letter from Wedgewood Houston

While I cannot base what I’m about to write on anything other than casual conversations with neighbors and NextDoor posts, I’m going to say it anyway:  Nashville SC fans are proving to be kind to my neighbors. And that’s more important than it may sound.

Four years ago, I found myself divorced and looking for a new place to buy. I had my realtor target Wedgewood Houston, recently named the home for Nashville’s new soccer stadium.  It was a fantasy of mine to live within walking distance of NSC’s home (yeah, I know, pretty lousy fantasy life).

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When I moved here, I became the unofficial expert on all things Wedgewood Houston for the Speedway Soccer team. Not only was I constantly walking over to the Fairgrounds in a day dream haze, but I also attended all of the neighborhood meetings the team put on to give updates on the stadium site and the potential impact on the neighborhood.

While the updates were interesting and informative, I never got close to feeling comfortable about how parking was going to work. Thirty thousand people is a ton, and outside of some infrastructural changes on the roads, I couldn’t tell if the team was prepared or not. I envisioned a nightmare scenario, but Ian Ayre’s upbeat “It’s gonna work” attitude had me in a state of magical thinking that it would indeed all work out. There would be hundreds of bicyclists, thousands of walkers. There would be no problems. It would be beautiful.

As the stadium went up and opening day approached, I was more and more anxious about… the side effects of parking. I was honestly less worried about people getting in and out and more concerned about what kinda chaos it would bring to me and my neighbors. I couldn’t help but begin to worry about this; it was such a topic everywhere in the neighborhood.

Let me be clear: I like chaos, but I worried that this kind of chaos could reflect poorly on the team, on soccer. And as the new sport in a competitive sports city, soccer simply didn’t need anything but good press right now.

I was worried in part because, when people pre-build a narrative of what they expect to happen, they often fit facts into that story, whether they fit or not. And even the most cursory glance at the Wedgewood Houston NextDoor or Facebook group would make it clear that at the very least a number of my neighbors imagined blocked driveways, discarded beer cans, and drunken fans urinating in public. 

While I cannot and do not claim to speak for everyone in the neighborhood, I’m more than happy to note that, in the most general terms, none of this has turned out to be true. People have patiently waited in traffic, have avoided blocking driveways and have cleaned up after themselves.

I went from seeing social media post after post of pearl clutching prior to the first game to very few, if any concerns once the season started.

I cannot tell you how important I think this is. Rather than creating an image of soccer fans as entitled and self-centered, you’ve helped create an image of Nashville soccer as a good neighbor with respectful guests. 

And while I cannot pretend to speak for everyone in the neighborhood, and while I am certain you can always find a few people who would disagree with my words here, it’s clear to say that the impression you are making is a positive one.

That’s not only a useful impression, but it’s the right impression.

Keep it up, gang. 

Author: John Sloopgrew up in Asheville, NC, and after forays to Georgia and Iowa, found his way to Nashville over 25 years ago. On a trip to Portland, Oregon, 15 years ago, he watched the (then) USL Portland Timbers youth squad play one afternoon and fell completely and totally in love with soccer, to the detriment of his love of all other sports. In addition to thinking, writing, watching, and talking about soccer, Sloop teaches media and rhetoric at Vanderbilt. He is currently serving as the Chair of the Board of the Belcourt Theater and is part of the team that runs Tenx9 Nashville, a monthly story telling event.

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