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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)
NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam corrected entrepreneur John Ingram during a news conference Wednesday when it was announced that Nashville had received a Major League Soccer franchise.
Ingram, the billionaire chairman of Ingram Industries, Inc. and controlling owner of the new team, had said Major League Soccer "belonged in the great sports town of Nashville."
Haslam said the celebration should actually stretch beyond the city limits and include the entire state of Tennessee.
"Tennessee has truly grown into a global brand, which makes us a terrific fit for a sport that's followed by fans around the world," Haslam said. "This is another feather in the cap for Nashville and will only add to the growing economic environment in Tennessee."
The franchise will become the 24th in the MLS, which just completed its 22nd season.
"We're young. We're on the rise. We're very diverse," said MLS commissioner Don Garber at the announcement made at the Country Music Hall of Fame. "We're very interested in trying to do things a bit differently than the other pro sports leagues have done. We recognize that we've just finished our 22nd season. We've got generations of growth in front of us."
It is unclear whether the team will begin play in 2020, as originally proposed, or 2019.
Nashville was one of the last of an original group of 12 cities to join the race for the next wave of expansion teams.
Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento were the other finalists along with Nashville, and appear to still be in play for another spot the league plans to fill.
"This is amazing y'all and completely exciting for us to be here today," said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. "We are definitely Music City, but we also are a soccer city."
Stadium construction remains contingent on a few additional votes in the Metro Council, including demolishing existing Fairgrounds Nashville buildings, and won't begin until the end of 2018.
Ingram indicated the team would play at Nissan Stadium until the new stadium is in place.
Nashville become the only major market to have NFL, NHL and MLS franchises.
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 and on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
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