Analysis: If Sounds strike out, could another team be found?

There is a scenario under which Struever Bros. can still build the ballpark and bring in a team -- maybe one owned by major-league legend Cal Ripken

If the Nashville Sounds deal does die, an interesting scenario could emerge.

The memorandum of understanding could evaporate and everything would be back to square one. Or, the city could decide that the Sounds were in default of the MOU, which would give the team's development partner, Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, the opportunity to take over as master developer.

In all likelihood, the team would leave town. That's the threat, anyway. For some, that might not be such a bad thing, given how the deal has proceeded. Of course, that leaves the city without a minor league baseball team.

But maybe not. If the MOU dissolves, Struever Bros. could re-emerge as the master developer on the site and build a ballpark but with no Sounds. A decision to make Struever Bros. master developer if the MOU goes away, of course, would be up to the city and the Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency. It's a matter of how badly the credibility of Struever Bros. got hurt in this process.

If the city finds the Sounds in default, Struever Bros. could take over as stated in the MOU. Either way, the developer could go out and find its own minor league team to put into the ballpark.

Struever Bros. apparently has a relationship with its hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles. After all, it has done work around Camden Yards, home to the Orioles. And there is talk that the developer has a relationship with "Iron Man" Cal Ripken Jr., the former Orioles great, who, as it happens, owns two minor league baseball teams. Perhaps Ripken would be willing to expand his growing empire here in Nashville.

His Ripken Baseball Group already owns the Aberdeen IronBirds, a single-A team and Orioles affiliate in Aberdeen, Md., and Augusta GreenJackets, a single-A team in Augusta, Ga. Some of the investors in that latter team include his brother and former big leaguer Billy Ripken, hall-of-famer Eddie Murray, Oriole third baseman Melvin Mora and several other former big leaguers.

Another alternative is a downtown attraction instead of a ballpark — say, an amphitheatre. Of course, the scenario are purely hypothetical. The deal isn't dead as of this afternoon.

This morning's Metropolitan Development & Housing Agency board meeting, however, gave no cause for optimism. The proceedings featured was more of the same palaver everyone has heard before between the Nashville Sounds and Struever Bros., as each side pointed to the other for why the effort has stalled.

The board approved a deadline extension, as did the Metro Industrial Development Board later in the morning. But it was no clearer whether the two sides have reached an agreement to restructure the financing of the deal so that a single lender will fund the entire project — the ballpark and associated development. Without that agreement, it is unlikely that an extension will be filed by tomorrow. Struever Bros. has signed onto the extension, but the Sounds haven't. They have been meeting since 1:30 p.m. trying to hammer out the deal.

At the MDHA meeting, Sounds General Manager Glenn Yaeger blamed Struever Bros. for holding up the deal by not getting the $20 million tax-increment financing in place to make the team's lenders feel comfortable with progress on the associated development. Yaeger has maintained that position for a while, restating it at Metro Council's Budget & Finance Committee yesterday.

Struever Bros., however, has said that its lenders for the TIF loan want to know that the Sounds have their loan for $23 million, which requires complete construction documents. The Sounds have refused to spend the money to do the construction documents.

The developer has proposed taking over construction of the ballpark, with both sharing the risk of cost overruns and paying for the design. So far, the Sounds haven't signed onto the agreement.

It could be a game of chicken, in which the Sounds are looking for absolutely no risk and no money out pocket in the hopes that Struever Bros. wants the deal badly enough that it will cave and take the Sounds off the hook. On the flip side, Struever Bros. may be betting that the Sounds will cave in and agree to share costs if it looks as though the deal is dead.