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Nashville city council approves financing for MLS stadium

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Nashville’s bid to land an expansion franchise from Major League Soccer now has $275 million in financing approved to build a new stadium, giving Music City a major boost weeks before a final decision from the league.

The Metro Nashville City Council voted 31-6 Tuesday night for $225 million in revenue bonds for the stadium itself and another $50 million in bonds for renovations and improvements around the stadium at the current fairgrounds.

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Nashville Mayor Megan Barry introduced the financing plan Oct. 2, and the council’s vote was the final approval needed for the project.

MLS requires a solid stadium plan for an expansion franchise, and John Ingram, the billionaire businessman who’s the local bid’s lead owner, called the vote a great night for Nashville.

“The vision to bring Major League Soccer to our city moves one step closer,” Ingram said in a statement. “Of course the final decision on the team won’t be ours, but tonight Nashville checked off the final item that MLS needed to see. I’m always proud of this city, and tonight we’ve shown - once again - how we all come together around something important to make Nashville the best it can be.”

Ingram’s group added brothers Mark and Zygi Wilf , owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, and cousin Leonard Wilf in August as minority partners.

Nashville appeared to make a strong case recently when league Commissioner Don Garber visited the city this summer in conjunction with the U.S. national team’s Gold Cup opener against Panama.

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The turnout caught Garber’s eye. The July 8 game drew 42,622 fans to Nissan Stadium, which was followed by a record crowd of 56,232 on July 29 to watch Manchester City beat Tottenham 3-0 in the International Champions Cup. A U.S. women’s national team SheBelieves Cup match against France last year drew more than 25,000 fans.

“If you don’t have success with friendlies or international competition, you’re not going to have success in MLS,” Garber told reporters during the visit. “So that’s a checked box that we’ve actually checked a while ago.”

Twelve locations expressed interest in expansion franchises. MLS is expected to announce two winning bids later this year, bringing the league to 26 teams, with two more teams to be added in the future.

MLS expanded to 22 teams this season with the addition of Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC. LAFC, which replaces the now-defunct Chivas USA, joins next year. Miami’s expansion effort, led by David Beckham, would bring the league to 24.

The other cities that submitted bids for an expansion team are: Cincinnati; Detroit; San Antonio; Sacramento, California; San Diego; St. Louis; Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida; Indianapolis; Phoenix; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Raleigh, North Carolina.