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Nashville stands up for "Our Team"

A diverse group of leaders in the Nashville community (the Our Team coalition) held a press conference this afternoon at the Sommet Center, emphasizing their support for NHL hockey and their commitment in raising attendance to keep the team here permanently. Since the May 24th announcement of the Predators' sale to Jim Balsillie, numerous initiatives have already gotten underway to mobilize support for the team. Their stated goal is to increase Predators season ticket sales by 3,000, through a number of committees that are targeting various segments of the greater Nashville area. It's encouraging to see that their goal isn't just to squeak above the minimum level to maintain the arena lease, but are instead aiming to achieve a level that can consistently support a profitable NHL operation.

The group is led by prominent Music City businessman Ron Samuels, who was involved in the effort to bring both the Predators and the NFL's Titans to Nashville in the first place.

The team leadership, as presented on the Our Team website:

Business outreach, chaired by Rob McCabe of Pinnacle Financial Partners
Major corporations, chaired by Mike Edwards of First Tennessee
Small and medium sized businesses, chaired by Michael Carter of Athena Day Spa
Downtown businesses, chaired by Jack Cawthon of Jack’s BBQ
Hospitality/tourism industry, chaired by Jon Crisp from the Hilton Hotels and Ruble Sanderson
Grassroots, chaired by Mike Coyne of Smith Seckman & Reid, and Rick Regen
Communications and research, chaired by Brian Whitfield of the Sommet Group
Sponsors, chaired by Mark Ezell of Purity Dairies

Mike Coyne, a former Vanderbilt baseball player, through his individual efforts has already resulted in 28 season ticket sales, as recently highlighted in the Tennessean. Brian Whitfield leads the Sommet Group, which came on board as title sponsor of the Predators playoff run this year, and recently purchased naming rights to the Nashville Arena as well. All in all, this seems to be a deep and well-connected group that's going to work.

The local business community has consistently been pointed out as the major factor in what is seen as a disappointing level of support for hockey here in Nashville. Individual fans support the team quite strongly, but most of those hockey tickets are sold in the more affordable, upper-bowl seats. When other cities boast corporate season ticket holders that write the check whether or not anyone actually fills the seats, it makes for a solid financial foundation to an NHL franchise. Since the NFL's Titans came to Nashville shortly after the Predators run began, that business support has declined, and this effort is designed to rekindle that excitement and ensure that NHL hockey remains a vital part of the Nashville sports & business scene.

Ron Samuels noted that the Our Team group hasn't spoken with Jim Balsillie yet, given the pending nature of the team sale, but that they are moving forward immediately, with the goal of selling half of the 3,000 Preds season tickets by the middle of July. So before all those Hamiltonians start envisioning the Predators skating in Copps Coliseum, they should know that Nashville's not going to let this team go without a good fight...

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