The owners of the Nashville Sounds may no longer have the Thermal site as a candidate for their future stadium, but they showed enthusiasm Thursday morning for a faciltiy on the East Bank of the Cumberland River, Joey Garrison reports. Populous, the firm that led the study analyzing potential stadium locations, identified sites on both the west and east sides of Korean Veterans Boulevard. (Get the full report here.)
“The possibility of a site on the east bank of the river is clearly the site that has the most interest by the Sounds,” said Sounds attorney and lobbyist Tom White, adding that the Sounds must now look at financing possibilities, with help from Metro, for a new ballpark to replace outdated Greer Stadium.
“There is extremely limited interest by the Sounds in the other two sites,” White added.
The Mayor's Office will today release a report from stadium designers Populous that is expected to highlight three sites on downtown's fringe that could become home to a future Nashville Sounds stadium. Not expected to make the list is the former Thermal Plant property on the Cumberland River's west bank.
“That’s the first step — to determine what’s the right location or locations to build a baseball stadium, and then there’s lots of steps after that,” Riebeling said Wednesday. “There’s details on financing. There’s working out an agreement with the Sounds.
“I’m sure every site has unique issues that will have to be worked through,” he added. “It’s a long process from here, but this is a good first step.”
Forbes' annual list of the value of NHL franchises is out. The Nashville Predators' total value is $163 million, according to the magazine, good for 25th in the league but down $11 million from the purchase price paid by the current ownership in 2007. The team's revenue was $82 million last season, 23rd in the league. From the magazine:
The Predators are losing money and trying to find investors to pump in about $25 million to shore up the team's finances. In early 2011 the team secured a $75 million credit facility led by Regions Bank to replace the $75 million loan from CIT Group used to finance the purchase of the team. The team has plans to renovate 15-year old Bridgestone Arena by adding a Fan Zone on the upper concourse and upgrading 72 suites. The Predators have a lot of debt and have been in the bottom-third of the league in attendance for six consecutive seasons.
The $7.5 million annual operating loss is the second-largest for the team since the lockout and, coincidentally or not, is identical to the arbitration-awarded salary of superstar Shea Weber.
The good news is Forbes says the Predators are worth 10 percent more than they were last year. Twelve NHL teams showed a profit last year — noteworthy with the league's collective bargaining agreement expiring next summer.
The fine folks at Fan Cost Experience are working through their annual Fan Cost Index rankings — which calculates the price for attending games in each of the major sports, using ticket prices, hot dogs, beer, soft drinks, programs, gear and the like.
The NFL rankings came out back in September [PDF with methodology here]. The Titans came it with a total of $370.20 — the 24th most expensive experience in the NFL. It was up less than 1 percent from last season, mostly due to a slight increase in ticket price. The league average is $427.42.
The NHL rankings came out this week. The Predators have the 20th highest FCI in hockey [pdf here]. The ticket prices are among the league's cheapest — averaging out at $51.04 (no change from last season), about $6 below the league average. But it's the Bridgestone Arena beer prices that are a head-scratcher. The average brew comes in at $6.75. Per ounce, that's the second most expensive in the league, trailing only Montreal. Why the pricey suds? PostBiz — forever in a quest to answer the hard questions — called the Preds front office, but has yet to hear back. We'll update you. Anyway, the total FCI was $288.67, unchanged from last year and a good $38 below the NHL average.
The good news here is, all told, it's comparatively cheap to root, root, root for the home teams.
Despite the recent on-ice woes, the Nashville Predators can at least take solace in that, hey, at least the food is good.
Nina Mandel at Food Republic has declared Bridgestone Arena as the NHL's Top Food and Drink Arena, lauding — of course — the prime location of the arena, a smart play made in a time when many other new arenas were moving away from downtowns.
Dubbed by the Predators' own staff as Nashville's biggest tailgate, there's barbecue and music for some pre-game fun, even if you don't make it to the game. Team reps also recommend Jack's Bar-B-Cue, which is next to the arena, and the ribs at Rippy's Bar and Grill. Looking to get rowdy? A variety of honky-tonks surround the stadium, including Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Robert's Western World and The Stage Legend's—but those stops are more for the booze then the food.
Once inside the stadium, the options are limited to hot dogs, nachos, burgers and a deli spot. For higher class dining, there's the Patron Lounge, where you need reservations made before the game to get in (and a credit card to secure it.) There's also a “Fan Zone” where ticket-holders can get unlimited beer, wine, non-alcoholic drinks and a buffet complete with a carving station.
But it's the tailgating that earns Nashville the No. 1 spot on this list.
In other words, there's plenty of places to get shots before the game. Even if the team is having trouble getting them on the ice.
Bloomberg Businessweek decided to find the smartest spenders in sport — analyzing payroll-versus-wins in the four majors in the past five years. Up at the top of the list? The Nashville Predators, with four post-season appearances in the period and the fifth-most wins in the NHL while staying an average of $10 million below the cap. The Titans come in at 42nd.
While the Predators are noted for their relative efficiency on a modest payroll, there is some question whether the little dots in the above table can ever be replaced with a trophy indicating a title.
Nashville's Best Sports Blog, On The Forecheck, in the wake of Moneyball's theatrical release, examined the similarities between those Billy Beane Oakland baseball teams and the Predators and found some striking parallels — but one of which is that neither won the big trophy. The question is whether Poile in the front office and Barry Trotz on the ice can win a Stanley Cup with Predator hockey — one OTF's Dirk Hoag asked before this season started.
His conclusion: Smart money isn't always as good as big money.
The current formula can carry the team into the playoffs consistently, but once there, are the Predators really prepared to battle and beat the best? Goaltending and defense can indeed be advantages, but the hard work angle probably isn't — at playoff time, everybody's motivated.
Is there time and budget space for David Poile to address these concerns? Absolutely. But if we get close to the opening of the regular season and we're still hearing about how high the upside is for this team of young kids, or that defense and goaltending can carry the Preds to the next level competitively, prepare yourselves for a very bumpy ride.
Once Cigna's buy of HealthSpring goes final, HealthSpring founder, Chairman and CEO Herb Fritch should enjoy a cash event somewhere on the north side of $150 million, after factoring in change-of-control payments, capital gains and so forth.
Happy New Year, Mr. Fritch!
In addition to having the smart idea of starting and building a company specializing in Medicare Advantage insurance, Fritch is also a key member of the Nashville Predators' ownership group, having bought 36.7 percent of the team in 2007. When David Freeman put together the gaggle of local owners, Fritch was the first partner he announced and was visible from early on during the ownership transition — even wearing a jersey bearing the name "HealthSpring" and the number 1 during the ticket-selling rally.
The question is if his nine-figure windfall makes any difference to the hockey team.
Does Fritch see his ownership stake as a point of civic duty? Did he get involved primarily to keep the team from bolting for colder climes? Or is he interested in hockey as a thing in itself? While he was an early visible face of the new owners four years ago, he's been fairly invisible as a public figure since, ceding those responsibilities to Freeman and now Tom Cigarran. (That's understandable given that HealthSpring has more than doubled in size since 2007.) On the other hand, he is one of the team's alternate governors, the ownership's representative at league meetings. And he did wear that jersey.
Any further investment by Fritch also would dilute the sharesheld by the rest of the group. Of course, a siginficant investment has the potential to make Fritch the majority owner, something the team has been without since Craig Leopold sold to the local investors.
Even without his forthcoming influx, Fritch has been cashing in. He's been selling HealthSpring stock through a trading plan since at least 2008 and has this year sold batches every two weeks or so. Since his last trade of 2010, he has reduced his stake by a net 322,500 shares. Conservatively using $35 as the average sale price — the stock's been well above it for much of the year but below it for some of the time — that adds up to $11.3 million in pre-tax proceeds. Check out his sales history here.
At the team's mid-summer Skate of the Union event, Cigarran said he expected to raise between $20 million and $25 million before the end of 2011 and team COO Sean Henry said the expectation was that the cash would come from local investors — either from owners currently on board or via new money. Cigarran also said the NHL was expected to approve a new ownership stake in the team from Canadian billionaire W. Brett Wilson by September. Now October, neither of those events have come to fruition.
Cigarran was quiet this summer as to how those new millions would be spent, be it on player payroll or building improvement or the more mundane parts of pro sports ownership, like paying off debt or just making the organization more stable in a general sense.