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.
Losing its ESPN Radio affiliation before September began? No big deal. Losing its biggest personality halfway through the month? Psha, as if. Radio-Info.com points out that WGFX 104.5 The Zone still has the Tennessee Titans and everybody in sports business knows the NFL towers over all: The Zone's share jumped two full points last month.
A group of landowners that includes Cherokee Equity and construction materials company LoJac has come forward with a proposal to build a new ballpark for the Nashville Sounds between the Cumberland River and Interstate 24 north of the Jefferson Street bridge. They say the land comes with tremendous opportunities to produce related development in a part of town that can use it.
“The North End seems to us to provide a central location with great sight lines and interstate access, is located on Jefferson Street and has a massive potential upside for … [ancillary] projects that generate jobs, tax revenue and increase the city's tax base,” he added.
Cleats are beginning to drop as Nashville aims for its third Arena Football franchise.
The Tulsa World is reporting that city's AFL franchise, the Talons, is all but packed up and set for a move to San Antonio. Tulsa's franchise is at the forefront of most relocation rumors in the indoor football league and San Antonio seen as a top candidate, though there was some speculation San Antonio would be granted an expansion franchise.
From Mike Brown at the World:
Ross said moving to San Antonio "is one of four options, but nothing is etched in stone. We've got our letters of credit in with the league and we're going to do something."
He said simply shutting down the franchise is not an option "because we've come too far for that."
A source told the Tulsa World "it would not be inaccurate to report that the Tulsa franchise will be relocated to San Antonio."
The World also confirmed the existence of three rough-draft schedules for the upcoming season, one of which includes a Nashville franchise. Predators COO Sean Henry has said Bridgestone Arena is aiming for a 2013 start for a new team.
The Talons' move to the AlamoDome, though, doesn't leave Nashville in the lurch. The Dallas Vigilantes have sprung to the fore as the likely new gridiron tenant at Fifth and Broad, first reported on an Arena Football fan site.