Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Predator, Prey

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 4:10 PM

click to enlarge hockey_20puck_20003.jpg
This is probably the worst possible time to question the new Predators deal, as our hockey team faces off against the Red Wings tonight with a chance to tie up the series. But the Metro Council's 30-8 vote to approve the team's lease for the downtown arena was so predictable and telling that we just can't let it go. It's not the worst deal in the world—probably because Phil Bredesen wasn't involved—but I don't know how anyone can feel too good about it. “I think for some people it was a hold-your-nose-and-vote-yes vote,” says Metro Council member Mike Jameson, who held his nose and voted yes. Of course, the timing of the council's vote is wretched: Right when the city is preparing to can 200 Metro employees, it's electing to give super-wealthy owners of a professional sports team a multi-million dollar handout to run their money-losing business. But if we let the team go, supporters of the deal say, the arena would lose its No. 1 tenant. And don't forget that thousands of Predators fans wouldn't be coming downtown to spend their money anymore. So, yes, it's hard to dismiss those points outright, but the arena did just fine in the first two years before the Predators came to town. More importantly, no objective study has shown that the benefits of having a hockey team playing downtown outweigh the costs of propping up its existence. It wouldn't surprise me if that were true, but shouldn't our city be armed with more than a hunch before we agree to a five-year deal? But as our own Bruce Barry ably pointed out last fall, city leaders lose all perspective when it comes to professional sports. (We should add that Bruce Barry's far better half, at-large Metro Council member Megan Barry voted “no” and was one of the deal's most eloquent critics.) If any other business had the Predator's financials, no one would care if they took a trip up 65. Somehow, though, even a second-tier professional sports team like the Predators has no problem convincing a city to write an annual check. And when time comes for the team's owners to sell to the next gaggle of vanity buyers, they'll make a tidy profit. Remember we helped Craig Leipold reap a $68 million capital gain from his sale of the team, and now we're doing the same for David Freeman and his buddies. I hope that works for you.

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