Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Predator problem

Chase Cole, an attorney representing the investors group, issued a statement late Wednesday saying the group “wants this team to stay forever.”

“I think everybody understands and agrees that the local group’s
intentions are honorable and that they desperately want this team to
stay in Nashville,” he said. Cole also said it is critical the team also “succeeds.”
First, today's news from Tennessee: Nashville's mayor, Karl Dean, is willing now to more than double an arena operating subsidy that was "about $3.2 million during the 2006-2007 fiscal year."

All he wants is the team to commit to staying for five more years.

“Why would we have the team leave early and still give them more money?” Dean asked. “What I’m looking for is the commitment to Nashville.”

This shouldn't be a snag, not if what the group's lawyer (quoted at the top) says is true. But the problem with saying things like "the local group’s
intentions are honorable" is that this isn't truly a local group, and honour, at least in the sense the legal beagle means here, isn't a universal virtue.

William 'Boots' Del Biaggio is in line to own somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 per cent of the team should this deal ever get done — and he's not local and he's not forever, either. He's the money, and the just-in-case option.

As in, just in case this team continues to lose $15-million a year, as Craig Leipold says they did in 2006-07.

Announced attendance so far this season is down from last year's 15,300 to 13,687, four games in. And the old line about this being an early season problem doesn't apply, not when the Preds drew more than 15,000 per game through the first two months last season.

If the local group was truly committed to keeping this team in Nashville forever, they could sign on the dotted line tomorrow, and agree that the Predators were staying at least until 2013.

That, of course, could mean millions in losses. And with 40 per cent of those millions coming from a source with little interest in staying put, that's going to be a hard sell. Impossible, really.

Give the mayor credit: He's no dummy. If you're going to make even more concessions to keep the team, guarantee they're staying put.

And watch if they balk.

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