NASHVILLE — The Nashville SC held an open practice Tuesday at the largest soccer-specific stadium in the United States.
The team is scheduled to play its first game at 30,000-seat GEODIS Park on May 1, though there are still some construction and final touches being finalized.
Defender Walker Zimmerman said it's been a slow build from the expansion franchise's debut Feb. 29, 2020, playing at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans.
"It's incredible to think this is our permanent home and place where 30,000 can come, pack it out cheering for us," Zimmerman said. "It's amazing. We can't wait for May 1st. It's going to be an amazing atmosphere, and hopefully we can bring back three points to open it the right way."
Nashville is starting this season with its first eight games on the road. Nashville currently ranks seventh in the Western Conference with 10 points and a 3-2-1 record. This club has reached the playoffs each of its first two seasons, losing to Philadelphia Union in a shootout in the Eastern Conference semifinals last November.
GEODIS Park was built at the Nashville fairgrounds right next door to the historic speedway, which city officials and Bristol Motor Speedway are working on a planned renovation.
The stadium features a 360-degree roof or canopy over the seats with lots of steel struts and brick designed to mimic the industrial area in the neighborhood. Club seats have access to three separate themed-club areas on the west side of the stadium, while the west side features a 65-foot wide concourse.
Architects even designed a stage for musicians who start each home game with a guitar riff, the national anthem or concerts during the game. The Bermuda grass was installed on the field in early March. Bathrooms on the concourse are reversible, allowing them to be used for pregame events outside before gates open.
The May 1 debut already is sold out, and Nashville has sold 21,000 season tickets for this season.
Nashville chief executive officer Ian Ayre said recalled the plans being only lines on paper when he arrived in 2018.
"Fans in the stadium, players on the field, and it felt like a sound check for May the first for me getting over those final touches," Ayre said. "Great testament to so many people, too many to mention."
The practice was open to season-ticket holders with Nashville expecting up to 4,000. Torrential thunderstorms Tuesday morning dampened the turnout. The fans who did show up stayed busy buying merchandise, walking down to the front row to watch practice or tour the stadium.
Midfielder Anibal Godoy said they're looking forward to this new stadium, knowing they need to win at home. Nashville went undefeated at home in 2021, going 8-0-9 in a streak the players hope to carry over to the new park. Godoy said they know if they win at home they'll go to the playoffs.
"Now we have 30,000 here ... it's amazing for us and we need to enjoy this time," Godoy said.