Nashville’s funding quest for MLS team all began with lawmaker’s soccer past

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As Nashville brings Major League Soccer (MLS) to Tennessee, one of the early keys was to get some help from state lawmakers.

A law needed changing to make it happen.

“The statute did not allow for MLS,” said House Republican Caucus Chair Ryan Williams.

The group hired to help bring Major League Soccer to Nashville knew that he was the one to go to first on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill.

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“They called me because they knew I was passionate about the game,” said the representative.

Williams played college soccer at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee, before representing the Cookeville area in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Being the rare state lawmaker with a big soccer past, Williams could explain to colleagues why a bill was needed, and how recent soccer matches at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium drew fans from all over Tennessee.

“It does not matter if I am in Nashville, or Cookeville, and I actually coach my son’s team in Knoxville, so I drive to Knoxville three days a week in the fall. Even when you talk to people there, they are excited about the idea,” Rep. Williams said.

Lawmakers control state sales tax and part of the proposed funding for the soccer stadium construction would come from future sales tax revenue generated at the facility through things like tickets or concessions.

Williams sponsored the bill that easily passed last session allowing that mechanism for Major League Soccer.

“It’s the same kind of mechanism that we used for the Titans, the Predators, and Memphis Grizzlies,” he explained.

Clearly supporters say pro-soccer is a win for Nashville and the state of Tennessee with a boost from the General Assembly.