Dean impressed with new Sounds owners, but does that mean a new park will be built?

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 1:00am

Frank Ward knows when he wants to start talking with Mayor Karl Dean about Metro dollars helping with a new downtown ballpark, but he isn’t disclosing when that is.

“I know, but I’m not going to tell you,” new Nashville Sounds co-owner Ward said. “Our focus is on this season and bringing back the fans.”

Ward’s careful handling of the question comes on the heels of years of contentious discussions with the previous Nashville Sounds ownership group over a new downtown riverfront ballpark.

Last year MFP Real Estate agreed to buy the Sounds and immediately Ward had to field questions about when discussions for a new ballpark would be renewed. Ward has consistently sidestepped the question and kept the focus instead on bringing fans back to Greer Stadium.

MFP oversaw $2.25 million in renovations at Greer, which is $500,000 more than what the Sounds were required to contribute under the new terms of the lease.

Ward’s handling of potential talks of a new ballpark has impressed Dean, who was publicly at odds with the previous Sounds ownership group.

Although Dean is making nice with the Sounds, he also acknowledges that a new ballpark is essential to baseball’s long-term success in Nashville.

“The fact that these guys have put more money into this project than they were required to, the fact that they’ve done everything right, I think, in a public relations aspect is very positive,” Dean said.

The Sounds had a deal in place to build a new ballpark on the downtown riverfront at the old thermal plant site. Despite Metro approval of the funding, the deal fell apart with the Sounds and their developer pointing fingers at each other.

Dean, himself a huge baseball fan, said he still liked the idea of a downtown ballpark, but said it would be his job to protect the city in negotiations with the Sounds. Besides the old thermal plant site, the Sulphur Dell site north of downtown is also rumored to be under consideration for a potential new ballpark.

“Every indication from the past six months of working with these guys is we have the right partner,” Dean said.

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