This weekend, the Nashville Sounds open their 35th season at Greer Stadium, Chestnut Hill's aging, hulking monument to late 1970s functionalism.
Years ago, before the dawn of the Music City Center, a new downtown Sounds stadium was all the chattering class could talk about. At the height of the city's baseball fever — a malady that barely warranted a Flintstones chewable — it seemed inevitable that the Guitar Swingers would end up in a throwback facility closer to the city's urban core.
Now? There's hardly a peep about moving the team from the outdated, outmoded, grimy Greer — except from one man: Nashville's fictional political impresario Lamar Wyatt, the Geppetto behind the successful mayoral run of his son-in-law and former country-music house husband Teddy Conrad.
Wyatt, as always, is busy tending his many self-interests within the city politic. Nevertheless, Nashville's wily anti-Watauga of one took time out from hoarding cases of Pappy Van Winkle to discuss the future of a downtown ballpark.
You've been an advocate for this ballpark for many years and you seem to prefer the thermal plant site. Can you ... [interrupts] Where did you hear that?
Well, it makes sense. Mayor Conrad was involved in that Cumberland project that never materialized, and the land is still undeveloped. Of course I prefer the thermal plant site. The park would provide a link between SoBro and the activity [Titans owner] Bud [Adams] can bring with his folks on the other side of the river. Now, I know Miz Martha [Ingram] has her eyes on it for some kind of, uh, music venue for the symphony. But you see, me and my friends have "worked something out" so the symphony's gonna be tied up with some problems for a while. You might say the NSO is SOL.
You mean you caused all those debt problems for the symphony? Me and the river, son. Of course I didn't cause the flood, but the Good Lord knows I can seize an opportunity when I see one [lights cigar with deed to Nashville Rescue Mission].
Are you still sold on the thermal site? I think it is the best option, but I'm amenable to other sites. I remember going to Sulphur Dell with my daddy to see the Vols play years ago, and there's lots of history there. Then there's that area there along 11th and Charlotte ...
The North Gulch? Yeah, that's it. Hell, I made up that name, and even I can't remember it. I'm the one who got The Tennessean to use it, just like when I told them The Nations was actually "Historic West Town."
OK, so what's the hold-up? [Former fictional, current actual] Mayor Dean seemed to have his eyes on other places. That Music City Center turned out to be his big project — $585 million-plus if you can believe it. That's a lot of debt outlay for the city. To take on another big civic project like this, even for a cultural and industrial juggernaut like Nashville — that's trademarked, by the way — is asking a lot. The owners of the Sounds want a new park, the [Sounds' parent club] Brewers have all but given the city an ultimatum. But it's not going anywhere. We're just stuck up there at Greer. Some poor AAA-hole's got to pay for this thing and no one wants to do it.
Originally, I think, you wanted to bring Major League Baseball to town. Is that off the table? I'm ambitious, son, not stupid. Maybe it'll come someday — long after I'm gone, 'round about the time we start buying chardonnay at Piggly Wiggly — but not any time soon. Our people just don't have the money to support 81 home games a year. The city doesn't have the money to build a big league park. Hell, they don't have the money to build a Triple-A park, apparently. Anybody who moves a team is going to move because their current city won't fall for their extortion. So they're going to move someplace where the city will build 'em that new park. That ain't Nashville, is it? Already did it for Bud, that shrewd SOB. Can't see it happening again.
But ESPN's Buster Olney says all the time Nashville would be perfect, and the players would love it. "Buster says so," huh? [chortles] Love that little Vanderbilt tunnel rat. But the players also want to play in Las Vegas, so what does that prove?
Are you a betting man? I'm not in the business of self-incrimination, but how d'you like these numbers? [Shows off cufflinks shaped like dice while adjusting roulette-wheel lapel pin.]
What are the chances of a new minor league stadium or a major league team moving here? Why, son — [wobbles his Greer Stadium "Rayna Jaymes Night" bobblehead] — the chances are as real as I am.