Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Nashville: Not Working Out

The Nashville Predators are one of the more exciting NHL teams to watch, and sit 2nd overall in the NHL with 79 points.

Despite this, they rank 23rd overall in attendance with an average of 14,727 per game, below such markets as Atlanta, Anaheim, and even Florida.

While the Preds have a good base of hardcore supporters, they don't really have much else. The corporate support just isn't there, and there way too many other entertainment options in that city. Your average Nashville country boy is likely to spend their nights drinking away their sorrows at a country bar, rather than fork over $100 to see Martin Erat pass the puck to Paul Kariya.

With that, Preds owner Craig Leopold is back on the corporate welfare bandwagon, threatening to move the club if the taxpayer's don't give him a free gift.

From Al Strachan's FoxSports column...
Craig Leipold often has his hand out, to both Nashville taxpayers and the NHL.

You can take a boat. You can take a plane. You can take a powder. You can take Dr. Seuss' famous zike-bike or crunk-car. It doesn't matter. Just go. We're sick of you.

This is a franchise that has done nothing but whine since it came into the National Hockey League. Its continued presence doesn't warrant the aggravation.

It has been given every opportunity to succeed, but like the stereotypical spoiled brat, it continues to blame others for its failures — and then stick out its hand.

The latest assault upon our sensibilities came last week with the announcement that if attendance doesn't skyrocket by 25% for the rest of the season, owner Craig Leipold will be in a position to demand a further $2 million from beleaguered Nashville taxpayers and lay the groundwork to move elsewhere.

To this, we say: Please do move elsewhere. Like into oblivion, for instance.
Oblivion being Winnipeg, Manitoba.

For starters, the Predators were given an 18,500-seat arena. Yes, given. Outright. The arena in question was built in 1996 at a cost of $145 million.

By contrast, around the same time, the Montreal Canadiens were building an arena to which the taxpayers contributed not a penny. In fact, the churlish Montreal city council, even though private enterprise was regenerating a part of town that was threatening to go to seed, billed the Canadiens for lost parking-meter revenues caused by the construction.

But back to Nashville. A free arena wasn't enough for Leipold. No, he had to have luxury boxes. So his free arena was remodelled to provide them — at a further cost to taxpayers of $14 million.

But the team would need a place to practice because the arena occasionally would be used by other events — to the benefit of Predators owners, of course.

So the Nashville taxpayers provided a practice arena as well. And just to make sure Leipold didn't have a cash-flow problem, the city even kicked in 25% of the team's $80 million expansion-franchise fee.

But those heartless money-grubbers down at City Hall then made life really difficult for the Predators. It seems the team has to pay rent on the building. All of $50,000 a year.
How can the politicians of Nashville justify subsidizing this club? In a place like Vancouver, where the team provides a lot of free entertainment and prestige to the city, it would make sense. In Nashville? What's the benefit to Joe and Jane Taxpayer?

Octopus over at The Face Off Circle points out just how weak Nashville's market really is, and how even the NHL is giving this team welfare cheques.
I have to admit, I find it truly galling that successful teams like Detroit have to subsidize teams like Nashville, which is leading us in the standings. That's seriously f'd up, from any rational business-standpoint.

If Leipold can't make it in Nashville, where he has made more enemies than friends during his tenure, he should be forced to sell the club. If the club moves, he shouldn't be a part of it anymore, because his crappy personality and "Brother, can you spare a dime?" mentality will follow him wherever he goes.

Grand Rapids sells 7,000 season tickets, and averages 10,000 per game, while the Preds have a season ticket base of 8,600 and sell about 14,700 per game. That's more than the Griffs, but you can't really compare a middling AHL team to a top-notch, Cup-contender. I think the Preds would do better in GR, than they're doing in Nashville, especially if they had a decent businessman running the show.

Population-wise, Nashville is about 1.2 million (few natural hockey fans), Metro Grand Rapids 1.1 million (lots of hockey fans). Metro Detroit is 5.5 mil, Metro Milwaukee is about 1.6 million, larger than Nashville, and is a place where hockey is actually played, hosting the farm team for the Preds. The Generals should switch towns with the Preds.
Would Grand Rapids really make a good NHL market? I wouldn't say so, but it goes to show just how weak the Nashville market really is. If the NHL wanted a weak corporate city to house an NHL team, Quebec City or Winnipeg would have been 1,000 times better.

Sorry, but Nashville ought to go if they can't support their own club without serious handouts all the time.

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The only reason Nashville did get a team was because the NHL felt sorry for being used by the NJ Devils back in '95...Nashville is to the NHL what Tampa/St. Pete is to baseball...
Why in the world would you ever quote, let alone believe Al Strachan.

Paul McCann does a nice job debunking what Al had to say.

Check out the above link, free yourself from Al's evil web.
A link to Eklund's site? That's funny.

In other words, free yourself from Al evil web, and get caught up in Eklund's daily BS.
Except that its not Eklunds BS. Eklund didnt post the info about Al, it was Paul McCann. Two completely different people.
Wait, Eklund is BS?
I think another reason Nashville is having problems is because they get screwed by the divisional set-up: rivalries against Carolina and the ATL would be natural, but under the current format, they may not meet for another 3 years...In fact, as a Thrasher fan, I can't remember the last time the two faced each other (considering how bad the Thrashers were before the lockout, it wouldn't surprise me if the 'ville won every matchup)...
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