New Nashville appears to be developing into a privileged, poverty-hating, gentrification train railroading anyone without resources to help it reach the top. Sounds so Kardashian, right?
Last night, after months of corporate-to-politician glad-handing and backroom skullduggery, Metro Council voted to approve a new MLS soccer stadium on beloved real estate near the city’s core. The “fairgrounds”, the former home of the annual state fair and Fair Park of my youth, now loved for its infamous end-of-the-month flea market and local car races, has been gifted to a member of the Nashville aristocracy to build a soccer field for his family and other members of the Music City gentry (great name for the soccer team).
The Art of the Deal
In 2017, MLS big whigs announced expansion plans and Nashville, always shooting for the stars for its privileged population, jumped feet first into the fray. The little country music capital that happens to have two professional sports teams believed it had that “it” factor to be a soccer city. John Ingram, a member of Nashville’s elite, put a bag of money on the table and the city bent over backward for him. In December 2017, the MLS granted Nashville, last on their list, an entire soccer franchise. Nine months later, the new mayor same as the old mayor and thirty-one Metro Council members voted on the stadium’s location, a hallowed piece of land developers have been salivating over for decades.
Since former mayor turned gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean was the city’s leader, rich people have been messing with the fairgrounds. Mayor Dean tried to sell it but in a 2011 referendum, the people resoundingly said “hell no!” Fast forward seven years and still reeling from the transit referendum loss four months ago, the Council voted against letting the people decide on the location of the soccer stadium just before the vote to give public land to a crazy wealthy family. According to Councilman Russ Pulley, the voters are simply too dumb to vote their interests and twenty-four of his colleagues agreed.
NOTE: I can’t even imagine the depths of the bullshit behind this one, but I’ll bet you we will see some of the current councilmembers and the city’s administration in box seats at the soccer games long after their tenure on the council. Congratulations.
It’s Just Soccer
I know you’re saying “it’s just soccer” and it’s cool that you feel that way, but don’t say it to my face. Because what you’re actually saying, and your Metro Council agrees, soccer is a priority. That it means more than the residents in the already gentrifying Black neighborhood near the fairgrounds. That it is more important than the Nashville residents unable to find housing that doesn’t swallow up more than 50 percent of their earnings. That soccer is more valuable than the firefighters and police officers who missed out on a cost of living raise this year. That a soccer field ranks higher than providing a warm place for our inhumane number of houseless Nashvillians.
But the most troubling to me is that it further validates the city’s contempt of its public schools.
Don’t get me wrong, public schools are always the recipient of charity and goodwill. The wealthy and elected are good about donating their prominence to the plight of public education, but it’s not their kids at risk so there is no urgency, no action. But mention soccer and in short order, the local government, flanked by rich friends, leap into action parading its goods, selling its soul, selling out the spirit of the city to allow the wealthy to have its way with public land.
Believe it or not, I really like soccer and recognize the impact sporting events has on a community. However, by voting for this boondoggle this city has made a statement that can never be unmade. Nashville, in its new role as the narcissistic aristocrat, doesn’t give a shit about those dependent on its services and more than 85,000 children are vulnerable to a government that puts soccer before their needs. Tragic.
“Precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience you must find yourself at war with your society.” – James Baldwin