Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Predators' lease proposal questioned

'Seems like a blank check,' Metro councilman saysBy MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer Tennessean) • April 9, 2008 A handful of Metro Council members asked tough questions about proposed arena lease changes for the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, a week before their final vote on the deal. Council members asked how they could sell multimillion-dollar annual subsidies of the pro hockey team to middle-class and poor constituents; why the cap on arena operating losses that the city would pay is set at the 2006 level, which is more than $2 million higher than this year's projections; and whether other cities are on the hook for such losses when a sports franchise also serves as the facility manager. (A 2003 audit by KPMG LLC said Metro's arrangement is unusual.) "It just seems like a blank check," Councilman Phil Claiborne of Donelson said after the council's Budget and Finance Committee met with city attorneys and finance officials. The Predators' new, mostly local owners say they need a new, more generous deal at the Sommet Center — which the team's sister company operates for the city — to have a chance of succeeding financially and keeping the team here. The proposal negotiated by Mayor Karl Dean's administration would increase payments and incentives to the Predators while also protecting the city's investment more effectively, supporters say. At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard said Nashville is "considerably different" than it was before major-league sports teams arrived in the late 1990s."I don't want to go back to those previous days, quite frankly," Tygard said. The full council is expected to vote on the lease when it meets next Tuesday.

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