On the gravel slab which will one day be Nashville SC’s world-class soccer field, CEO Ian Ayre beams with excitement over the stadium and the demand for tickets in city.
“Well, it’s incredible!” he says. “We’ve only been servicing existing season ticket holders and some premium that went on sale, and we’re already half full. Already! And that’s before we evened opened the gate today for people [general public] to come online and buy.”
With plenty of national skepticism surrounding Nashville’s MLS bid, the club has exceeded expectations in their first season and a half, on and off the field. After nearly 60,000 fans showed up to their MLS opener in February 2020, they’re averaging crowds in the mid 20,000s in their second season, and have already sold 15,000 season tickets for their new 30,000 seat stadium, set to open in May 2022.
“So we feel hugely encouraged,” says Ayre. “Hugely encouraged about the regular attendances we’re seeing for our games already. This will be a whole different experience. I think anyone who’s a soccer fan knows what being in a soccer-specific stadium, how much difference that makes to the atmosphere, the the enjoyment of the game. And there will be no better place to enjoy that than here.”
Progress is moving along smoothly at the Fairgrounds. The concrete seating decks are all in place. The canopy is in place on three sides, and is currently being installed on the east side. After that’s finished, they’ll begin the in-depth electrical, plumbing and drywall work, as well as beginning to divide up the seating sections. The final phase will wrap up in the spring, in which they’ll install signage, branding and the team-specific details.
Ayre says that he hopes the atmosphere the fans have created at Nissan Stadium will transfer to the new venue, which has been designed to maximize noise from the supporters.
“The good thing is, and rightly so, that actually our supporters drive the vast majority of our energy,” he’s quick to point out. “We don’t try to dictate to them. They’re very self-sufficient, which we love. They have such great ingenuity… you know, things like Soccer Moses… Incredible. And it has nothing to do with the club, other than they’re all for us and with us.”
“This should be almost like a festival of soccer. That’s kind of how it should feel. You should come and the game, the 90 minutes, should be the headliner, but there should be a whole lot of other stuff going on that will make it an exciting day.”
Parking has been a consistent concern among fans, who have voiced fair questions about the Fairgrounds’ ability to handle the gameday traffic, especially when combined with the general activity at the Fairgrounds and the Speedway.
“We did that in the best way that I think is possible, which is to employ somebody who is a professional, or an organization that are professionals in doing transport or a parking study,” points out Ayre. “Because I’ve never been to a stadium in my life that has enough parking.
“So you have to find a range of solutions from actual parking (which actual there’s quite a lot on the Fairgrounds at Fair Park, there’s other areas) and then being smart about ride sharing and other ideas that can really bring people. And then as the 10 acres build out, there will be things in there. So we feel confident that we can come up with a good solution.”
Ayre, who recently signed a contract extension that will keep him at the club until 2026, is visibly happy with the team’s progress on and off the field. When asked about his goals for the next five years, he’s quick to respond.
“I think for me personally, this place being finished is crucial. This becomes naturally the spiritual home of this place, and hopefully if not forever, for a long time. I know growing up in a stadium that’s been around for over 100 years, that’s everything. That’s kind of the place you go to worship. So getting that finished, making it work, getting it to the vision we had for it will be crucial.
“Continuing to always be competitive in the league as a team on the field, and also creating something that people genuinely love. And there are great examples of that in this city, whether it’s music or hockey or something else. If we can get it to that and create all of those things, I know that 2026 will come around. And what you really want is the world of soccer to be in this city talking about soccer and talking about how awesome Nashville Soccer Club is on the world stage, I think it’s a slam dunk, not just for me but for all of us.”