Greer Stadium ideas: Soccer, rodeo, grocery, park
The Tennessean – Joey Garrison, Feb. 11, 2015
An owner of a professional soccer team from Harrisburg, Pa., has met with Metro officials to pitch relocating to Nashville and making old Greer Stadium its new home.
Another entrepreneur envisions a new Music City Rodeo at the facility. Developers see its 26 acres prime for apartments or condos. And Kroger has inquired about the site housing an urban grocery store.
Meanwhile, neighbors call the property — next to the historic Fort Negley Visitors Center and Park — an obvious choice for green space while others want Greer to remain for recreational baseball.
With the Nashville Sounds set to vacate the place they've called home for 37 years come April 17, the Metro-owned Greer Stadium has drawn increasing interest from suitors and stakeholders looking ahead to the future of the site. Some want to raze it and start anew. Others want at least the baseball diamond to stay.
And yet a decision on what to do with the 1977-era stadium is not likely any time soon. In fact, it could come months after the election of a new mayor in September to replace Karl Dean, or perhaps much longer than that.
Metro Parks director Tommy Lynch, who confirmed to The Tennessean the range of groups that have informally approached the city, said Metro will kick off what could be a year long-long community outreach and planning process on the site after the Sounds depart Greer in mid-April.
Mrs. Herschel Greer, left, and daughter unveil a plaque dedicating the Nashville Sounds baseball stadium to the late Herschel Greer May 18, 1978. The dedication took place prior to the game. Frank Empson / The Tennessean
That means a punt from the current Metro Council and Dean administration to whichever of the seven mayoral candidates captures Metro's top job.
For now, the Sounds, who lease the stadium from Metro, remain the tenant. When the ball club moves to new First Tennessee Park, Metro will be freed of that agreement.
"What we will do at that point in time is we will lock it up and box it up and start a process — a public process that will involve public meetings — to make the determination of the use of that space," Lynch said. "There is no plan right now.
"I don't think anything definitively will be done until the next administration comes in."
Dollars would need to come from a future Metro budget — perhaps Dean's final one as mayor — for master planning on the future of Greer to move forward. Because the stadium lacks operation dollars in the current budget, the facility will not open for temporary events in the short-term.
Already, though, Metro officials, including Lynch, have fielded calls and entertained proposals from businesspeople who see potential. The Chestnut Street property sits right off one of the main arteries into the city — Eighth Avenue/Franklin Road — and across from a booming Wedgewood-Houston Neighborhood.
Eric Pettis, majority owner of the Harrisburg City Islanders, a club in the United Soccer Leagues, met with Nashville officials in the fall about the possibility of moving his team to Nashville, perhaps to Greer. His goal is to stay in Harrisburg, but the club's ownership team has been unable to move forward on getting a new stadium there.
"Soccer in this country is growing like crazy and you've got to look at whatever opportunities are out there," said Pettis, who has explored other markets in addition to Nashville. The hope would be to relocate by 2017 if the team picks that route. He called Greer and Nashville "definitely one of the better options we're looking at."
A separate pitch for Greer came last year from Steve Celuch to hold what would be called the Music City Rodeo, which he hopes would be affiliated with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He asked about using Greer as early as this summer but has instead organized events in July at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. He said he isn't optimistic about his idea gaining traction from feedback he got from Metro.
"It would have been a nice home for my rodeo," he said
Kroger, the grocery store chain that already has a store on Franklin Road near Berry Hill, has also reached out about the Greer property. The company is in a wait-and-see mode for now. "There's so many balls they have to work out, no pun intended, but they're receptive to continuing the dialogue," said Richard Jones, a real estate broker speaking on behalf of Kroger. "We think it has merit for an urban store."
No decisions have been made, Metro officials stress, for a planning process that isn't even under way. And though the Greer site has caught the eye of private developers, a more popular move among neighbors — and perhaps the most broadly supported proposal for now — could be to turn much of the property into green space that is lacking in the area.
That could perhaps be done in a way to appease baseball fans who have pushed to bring in youth baseball as well as Civil War re-enactors and history lovers who want an expanded Fort Negley site.
"Everyone who I have spoken to in the neighborhood would like to see some sort of publicly accessible space, and primarily that's park space," said Colby Sledge, a community activist in the area running for District 17 on the Metro Council. "We don't have a big open, green space in our area.
"Whatever happens there should be greatly based on what the neighborhood around it wants."
Metro is keen on the park idea idea as well. Lynch of Metro parks, pointing to the neighborhood's revitalization, said he favors green space for the Greer site. He also noted the site's long history with baseball, and softball diamonds existed on the site before Greer was even built.
Helping the cause for park space with recreational baseball fields: Redeveloping city land can turn complicated and impassioned, as recent lessons have shown. Less than two miles from Greer sits the 117-acre Tennessee State Fairgrounds, which Dean in 2011 fought unsuccessfully to turn into a combination of mixed-use development and corporate office space.
Besides the stadium, Metro will have other issues to address when the Sounds move out of Greer. The guitar-shaped scoreboard and stadium will become assets of the city. Area universities have inquired about the seats for their baseball teams, but it is unclear what Metro plans to do with them as well as the iconic scoreboard.
Meanwhile, across town at the site of First Tennessee Park at Sulphur Dell, construction crews are working vigorously to finish the stadium by opening day. The clock is ticking, but Sounds officials aren't leaving the door open to play any more games at Greer.
"Greer is not a back-up plan for the Sounds," said Doug Scopel, the Sounds senior vice president of operations.