Photo courtesy Nashville SC
Nashville SC is taking a methodical approach as the organization builds for its 2018 USL debut. Still more than a year out from that important moment, co-owner Chris Redhage and the club are putting together the structure to create a successful product and an important outreach within the landscape in Tennessee.
Being a former USL player, Redhage certainly takes this vision to heart.
“I lived out a dream of playing professional soccer. What my dream now is to create an environment that will allow other youth and other professional players to experience that, but at a higher level,” Redhage said during the 2016 USL Winter Summit in mid-December. “There’s a way that people can build careers, whether it’s in the front office, whether it’s ownership, whether it’s players. Ten to 15 years ago, it was hard to make a living. Now you can.
“That’s what’s fun, is the ecosystem is growing, with all the work in the league office and the vision it has.”
The first tangible aspect on the field will be this year’s debut of the Premier Development League side, Nashville U23.
“Obviously the PDL is our first jump with the Nashville SC brand,” Redhage said. “We’re looking to build the foundation, identifying our core values, identifying our vision and beginning to push that out at the amateur level. Our hope is that it builds our foundation so in 2018, when we come into the league, we have a rabid fan base that already understands what Nashville SC is about, where we’re going and what we want to accomplish.”
The holistic approach is evident in the formation of a partnership with the Tennessee State Soccer Association, which incorporates more than 41,000 registered players and serves as a true building block within Redhage’s and Nashville SC’s foundation.
“Our partnership with the Tennessee State Soccer Association has been really successful,” Redhage said. “We’re working hand in hand. A lot of these things take a while to build, but when you’re building a foundation, you’re building it not for today but for the future, so that’s what we’re excited about.”
Support for the anticipated USL club is certainly there, as evidenced by the team’s introductory unveiling to well more than 3,000 season ticket deposits as of mid-December, Redhage said. From the start, Redhage felt there was professional soccer void that he and the ownership group could fulfill within a buzzing market.
“Nashville’s an entertainment town, so we’re excited to look at some collaborative ideas within the fabric of Nashville,” Redhage said. “Nashville has one of the largest, fastest-growing millennial populations out there, and we’re looking to tap into that and really build a brand that has a story, but ultimately helps tell the city’s story within the framework of what we’re doing at Nashville SC.”
Photo courtesy Nashville SC
The team, co-owned by ProviderTrust co-founder Redhage, Jumpstart Foundry President Marcus Whitney and LifePoint Health President/COO David Dill, has made some important hires to get the ball rolling. Chris Jones was the first piece, introduced as the club’s general manager during the team’s introductory press conference. Then Nashville sought the expertise of former Soccer United Marketing Vice President Court Jeske as the team’s chief executive officer.
Redhage and fellow ownership had considered trying to make the USL push for this year, but he said waiting for the following year is one of the best long-term decisions the organization has made.
“We’re not just building a club for ’17 or ’18 – we’re building this so that in 2050, people are taking about Nashville Soccer Club, the world-class players, the championships, but ultimately what we do for the city,” Redhage said. “We want to unify the city at the professional, amateur and youth levels. We want to be the conduit to really changing peoples’ lives.
“Ultimately, I think that’s why David, Marcus and myself are doing this. This is about the city and this is about working together on building something.”