Mayor Karl Dean made comments to Metro Council members today that may put Nashville Predators fans at ease on the team's future and acquisition by the local group.
During this morning's Metropolitan Council Policy Seminar at Vanderbilt University, Dean addressed the issue of concessions on the Sommet Center to help the local buyers acquire the team. He told Council members that "we have made a lot of progress in the last few days" and "we are close." He added that he hopes to make an announcement soon.
The local buyers have been working feverishly with the city to get concessions on the Sommet Center so they can close the sale by Oct. 31 and at least break even with the team and still put a competitive group on the ice. As of yesterday, the word had been that both sides were working on some details but broadly had reached an agreement.
In his comments to Council members, Dean made a general reference to working through a legal matter regarding the bonds on the arena and identifying sources of revenue from tourism areas. With the bonds, the bulk of the bonds on the arena are supposed to be paid by a property tax increase voters approved in the early 1990s. Bonds for fitting out the arena and bonds covering the franchise fee have been being paid back through sale tax and other revenue streams from the arena.
On the tourism side, for several years, Metro has been paying a portion of the arena's operating loss out of hotel tax revenue generated by visitors to Nashville. This year, Metro budgeted $5.6 million in operating loss. Of that, $4.8 million is coming from the hotel tax fund. The fund had this opening when the bonds on the current convention center were paid in full. However, those supporting the construction of a new convention center have counted on that stream to cover debt service on future bonds that would be issued to build a new facility in downtown.
Working out details caused both to miss yesterday's noon deadline for filing a resolution to get on the Council's Oct. 16 agenda. Now, the a special Council meeting is required to get approval for a deal so the local group can meet their Oct. 31 deadline to close the deal with Predators owner Craig Leipold.
Dean promised that he and Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors are "very cognizant" that Council members will want plenty of time to review the deal. Later, Neighbors told a reporter that they would try to provide more than the obligatory two days notice for a special meeting.
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