For Nashville Predators fans, this business with the new lease for the Sommet Center has been a painfully slow process.
They were exuberant when the city struck a deal with the new owners. Then, members of the Metro Sports Authority started talking about taking time to look over the deal and make their own suggestions.
What? A lot of folks, particularly fans, thought that’s what the city had already done and now it was time for the authority to just rubber stamp the lease and send the document to Metro Council.
Not so fast. Apparently, there are authority members who don’t like to be called “rubber stampers.” By gosh, we’re an authority and we are going to have some authority.
This does raise the question of what the authority’s role should be. Metro created the authority for building the Tennessee Titans’ stadium. And the view is that all the authority does is manage the facilities and serve as a pass-through for issuing bonds on the facilities.
Historically, the authority has exerted itself only a handful of times. Well, maybe if the person only had two fingers on the hand in question.
The authority played a role in negotiating the lease with the defunct Nashville Kats. Under Mayor Bill Purcell, it also put the brakes on starting construction at the arena for the Metro Register of Deeds and the Metro Police substation during the week of a major sport event.
So the latest comments from authority members may be blowback from the thought that the first lease with the Predators would have been better had the authority exerted itself years ago.
When Gov. Phil Bredesen was mayor, he had a tendency to ram a deal through the process, leaving little room for discussion at the authority or Metro Council level. Former Mayor Bill Purcell treated the authority as a less than independent body as well, which was pretty much how all the Metro boards were treated under Purcell.
In one respect, Mayor Karl Dean’s approach with the authority could be viewed as part of his acting more cooperatively with everyone, treating the body as one leg of a three-legged stool. The Metro Council being another leg and Dean’s administration being the other. All three have to work together in order for the stool to be stable.
Another view that has been taken is Dean empowered the authority to do due diligence to create some plausible deniability. The authority squirrels the lease and Dean and crew point to the authority as the reason the team ultimately leaves, saying the authority that nixed the deal and that the mayor did all he could.
The problem with that is the authority, to anyone’s recollection, has never rejected a deal, which has helped bring about the label of the board being a rubber stamp.
In this situation, it is a little curious that some authority members would exert themselves so forcefully considering that the attorney, Larry Thrailkill, actually works for the authority. You’d think that authority members weren’t totally in the dark about the term sheet and the subsequent lease negotiations. The challenge with such deals is negotiating it without being in public view.
If two of them went together for a briefing with Thrailkill, then the Sunshine Law comes into play. But individually, authority members could have met with Thrailkill and been briefed and could have asked questions. And apparently there was some form of that done indirectly through executive director Emmett Edwards.
No one associated with the deal wanted to paint the authority as an easy process. But they also feel like they have a majority of votes to get the deal through that group. So perhaps, the public display by a board member or two is just that, flapping their arms in front of everyone to show that the authority is relevant.
The authority has been trying to expand its role in Nashville but not necessarily in having dominion over leases and such. It has been doing more in the economic development area in terms of recruiting other sporting events to not just the facilities it has but also to Nashville in general.
Apparently, people call the authority when they can’t get help from the Nashville Sports Council, supposedly the equivalent of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau only for sporting events.
There has been talk for a long time that the council falls short on its mission to “positively impact the economy and quality of life of the Greater Nashville Area by attracting and promoting professional and amateur sporting events.”
It appears that the council is too busy with the Music City Bowl and the O'Charley's Dinner of Champions to do much of anything else. There’s been considerable chatter that the council takes credit for sporting events and their economic impact yet have little to do with recruiting them.
That said, the council gets high marks for managing events and pulling together volunteers to work them. Perhaps, the council's staff is spread to thin. So the authority is attempting to pick up what has been viewed as slack in that area.
Picking up the slack there may be what authority members are carrying over to the Predators lease deliberations.
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