The pace appears to be quickening in the negotiations between the Freeman group and the Nashville Metro government regarding the Sommet Center lease, which remains the main obstacle in completing the purchase of the Predators from Craig Leipold. This evening, lawyers representing the city sent a letter (available here from the Tennessean) which appears to indicate that the main terms of an agreement have been struck, and in return, the city would like a firmer long-term commitment by the ownership group to keep the team in Nashville. From that letter:
"As we have discussed, the Mayor has indicated a willingness to support an additional operating subsidy for the Sommet Center for a period of five years, as well as the expenditure of $6,900,000 in capital expenditures, in order to assist the local owners to have a reasonable opportunity for success. In order to justify renegotiating the current lease, a new owner must commit to provide NHL hockey in Nashville for a period longer than the Team's current obligation."
Further on, it specifies that the Mayor seeks at least a five-year commitment, and a pledge to repay the additional operating subsidy in the event of the team's departure afterward.
This evening, the Freeman group's lawyer replied as follows:
"NASHVILLE -- The local ownership group wants this team to stay forever.
They are, however, working to ensure the team not only stays, but succeeds,
because it can't do one without the other.
We agree with the Mayor. No one has a "silver bullet" to guarantee the
Predators' success. Just as the Mayor pointed out the City cannot
guarantee ticket sales, we cannot guarantee them, either. Ultimately,
our conversations with the Mayor have always been based on the concept
that the city and the local investors would work together to offer the
community an opportunity - a second chance - to keep the NHL in town.
That opportunity will always require that at least 14,000 people also
want to keep the team by buying tickets to every game.
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. We believe the Mayor wants the same thing.
Mr. Thrailkill's letter raises new issues. We will be back in touch with Mayor
to discuss them in the morning."
The back-and-forth is coming quite quickly now, and it appears that the main issues related to revenue streams and bond payments have been addressed. After hearing many times this summer that a conclusion to the ownership drama was right around the corner, Preds fans may have reason to hope that this time it may get done.