The writing on the wall can’t get any clearer for the Nashville Sounds.
A change in mayors still won’t get the team a new ballpark downtown or anywhere in the city.
Mayor Karl Dean hasn’t just been hinting either. It’s been a flat ‘no.’ In a speech a week ago, Dean told an old-timers baseball group the team won’t get a new ballpark with the current ownership.
At this point, the Sounds should consider taking a page from the Nashville Predators playbook in how to get what you want out of the local government — sell to a local ownership group and move on to other pastures. The franchise started getting better treatment from the government, not to mention the better financial arrangement.
Of course, a different mayor helped.
Gaining local ownership is easier said than done. The team’s owner, Al Gordon, has to want to sell the team and that doesn't seem to be the case, seemingly harboring the illusion that he can get a ballpark to make the team more valuable for selling.
Talk around the community is that there is a group interested in buying the team if Gordon would sell.
Reese Smith III, who has had a long involvement with the team and still has a minority stake, is a logical starting point. He is days away from closing on the purchase of the Double-A team in Jackson. He's buying that team with David Freeman, the lead man in buying the Predators.
They won't confirm whether or not they've made an offer on the Sounds.
“We would like to see a new ballpark downtown,” Smith said. “We are supportive of the Sounds. We are glad to play any role we can to support keeping the team here.”
They sure got Sounds General Manager Glenn Yaeger’s attention. There was talk that Smith and Freeman were looking to move the team here. They aren’t, but Yaeger apparently went to Branch Rickey III, president of the Sounds' Pacific Coast League, to make sure.
There’s a certain protocol when it comes to territories. Other minor league baseball team owners, no matter the level, can’t tamper or tread on another’s turf. Pressure would have to come from the PCL to urge Gordon to sell.
Rickey couldn't be reached but it appears that he's not getting the full picture from Nashville regarding the state of affairs here.
So what may need to happen is that Dean, or one of his representatives, agrees to a meeting with Gordon only if Rickey is there. And then in that meeting, Gordon is told point blank that as long as he's the owner of the team, he's not getting a new downtown ballpark and that he may want to seriously consider finding a buyer.
That would mean some old-fashioned, Yankee political strong-arming from an unabashed Boston Red Sox fan.
Perhaps that would get the wheels turning. Nashville’s ballpark issue has been a thorn in the side of the teams in the league because the current place is a rat hole. The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t been happy with Greer’s condition either.
The Sounds’ Greer lease runs out at the end of the year and its deal with the Brewers ends in 2009 — not bad timing for a shake-up.
It's doubtful the relationship between Metro and the team can be repaired, ever. The attitude toward Gordon carries over from the pervious administration. After all, Dean was legal director and had more than one dealing with the team.
Yaeger didn’t help the team’s cause during the mayoral campaign when he apparently went to Dean’s camp and demanded that Metro pay the team money he thinks the city owes the team.
Investing more than $1 million in renovating Greer Stadium, supposedly to show the owner's commitment to Nashville, hasn’t eased the tension.
That prompted some wonderment among government officials and others who wanted a ballpark downtown. Their thinking is that the team could have had the ballpark if the Sounds would have spent that $1 million on completing the design plans.
If folks recall, former Mayor Bill Purcell held the Sounds in default of the memorandum of understanding to build the ballpark in part because the team hadn't paid its architect, HOK.
The team’s investment came after it flirted with Franklin, and the new mayor there summarily nixed the idea.
So now, the team is committed to Nashville because, at the moment, there really isn’t anywhere else to go.
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