Main Street Nashville

Murfreesboro may become a pro baseball city

Murfreesboro city leaders are in talks to bring a Double-A baseball franchise to a downtown site.

Organizers said that downtown, with its fast-changing landscape of new restaurants and small businesses, is the ideal location for a team in the expanding independent league American Association of Professional Baseball.

“Downtown Murfreesboro has the infrastructure to handle parking requirements for evening and weekend events,” City Manager Craig Tindall said. “Downtown is ideal for such an entertainment attraction as we seek to revitalize the historic downtown and surroundings to make downtown a vital centerpiece of the city.”

Last Thursday, developers of the Double-A franchise and the commissioner of the American Association, Josh Schaub, presented a proposal to the Murfreesboro City Council at a workshop meeting.

Jason Rose, a principal of Rose+Allyn Public and Online Relations based in Scottsdale, Ariz., outlined plans for the team and league expansion. Rose is creator and owner of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships.

A non-binding memorandum of understanding outlines a potential timeline for professional baseball coming to Murfreesboro. The project will include a feasibility study for development of a sports facility and an economic impact study.

While no specific location for a stadium in Murfreesboro has been finalized, city leaders said a downtown site is an ideal home facility for the new, unnamed team.

“Helping to revitalize downtown Murfreesboro with a professional baseball franchise and a stadium in the heart of the city would not only attract residents and visitors to the facility, it would enhance downtown’s identity and assist with redevelopment,” Mayor Shane McFarland said.

A possible stadium site raised concerns from preservationists, particularly surrounding Cannonsburgh Village.

“I’m not against a ballpark; I’m just against Cannonsburgh being harmed,” Murfreesboro resident Barbara Hutson Fry said. “As far as I’m concerned, Cannonsburgh is a jewel.”

Hutson Fry said a petition to save the village has more than 2,100 supporters.

The city council continues is sensitive to the historic nature of downtown, Murfreesboro spokesman Mike Browning said.

“There is no scenario in which we would proceed with a new facility that would do anything but work with and complement Cannonsburgh Village. We view its beautiful setting and buildings as a wonderful neighbor and asset to celebrate in conjunction with anything we may try to do in the downtown area,” Rose said. “I applaud citizens stepping forward to express their love for Cannonsburgh. If it works with designers and engineers, we envision preserving and enhancing the Cannonsburgh Village history while bringing baseball to Historic Downtown.”

McFarland, who described himself as a “baseball guy” in a social media post, said he would not be supportive of demolishing Cannonsburgh Village.

“But I do think it would be productive to talk about the current use and if it could be relocated (just like it was relocated in 1976) to an area that makes more sense for people to use the facilities inside existing parks and recreation property for years to come,” the mayor wrote in the post.

“The reality is that over the years, the Cannonsburgh area has become a haven for homelessness and illegal activity.  The City and MPD have put much effort and resources to curb those types of activities.  I believe this type of development would provide a catalyst to kick off the bottoms area along with the new Town Creek project. The Cannonsburgh Greenway trailhead has become one of our least used facilities because of those concerns.”

Murfreesboro is not the only city in Tennessee being considered for an AAPB franchise. Tennessee could potentially have a team in Clarksville as well. The AAPB features 12 teams in two divisions, predominantly in the Midwest. The league includes larger cities — Chicago, Milwaukee and Kansas City — and mid-sized cities — Lincoln, Neb. (292,657 residents), Sioux City, Iowa (85,617) and Sioux Falls, S.D. (196,528). Murfreesboro’s 2021 population was 157,519, Browning said. 

The American Association and its teams are different than a team like the Nashville Sounds, who are members of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League and are the top affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Developers and city planners said it will take two to three years to develop a new ballpark in Murfreesboro no matter where it is built. Organizers said they hope to attract 2,500 to 3,500 fans a night to watch 55 home games a season.

Browning said the next step is to complete an economic impact study before bringing the matter before the city council.