Players on all sides of the current Predators negotiations spent Tuesday saying very little about what progress is being made in brokering a deal between the team’s prospective buyers and the city.
Even less was said about what will happen if no deal is struck before today — the deadline set by current Predators owner Craig Leipold to cut that deal.
Leipold has given a group of local investors led by David Freeman until a non-specific time today — Oct. 31 — to hammer out a new agreement with Metro over changes to the team’s lease with the Sommet Center.
According to Leipold’s agreement with the Freeman group, Leipold reserved the right to pocket their $10 million deposit and seek other buyers if the Freeman group was unable to secure the changes it wanted to see made to the team’s contract with the Sommet Center, which is overseen by Metro government.
Leipold, who is not involved in the negotiations with the city, would not say if he is considering extending Wednesday’s deadline.
“Everybody’s still focused on working to see this deal through,” Gerry Helper, spokesman for Leipold and the Predators organization, said Tuesday afternoon.
Helper said it was premature to comment on whether or not a deadline extension has been discussed with the local investors group.
“I think we have to let the negotiation process take its course,” he said.
Similarly, a spokeswoman for the investors group, would not say if the group has even discussed the deadline with Leipold.
“Any questions about deadline extension would need to go to Mr. Leipold,” said Hall Strategies’ Margie Newman. “Right now we’re still aiming for Oct. 31.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Dean’s office, which has been overseeing the city’s negotiations with Freeman and the local investors over changes to the Predators’ current contract to play hockey at the Sommet Center, turned its attention away from the negotiations altogether, saying again that the city is not operating under any deadline constraints.
Officials for the mayor said that regardless of whether or not an agreement is reached the Predators will remain in Nashville through the 2008-2009 hockey season, and that the long-term future of Predators hockey in Nashville is not dependent on a deal with the Freeman group but on selling at least 14,000 tickets a year.
“The only way the Predators stay in Nashville, legally financially and otherwise, is if we sell 14,000 tickets,” Dean’s spokeswoman, Janel Lacey, said Tuesday.
Dean himself has also tried to take the focus of the Predators’ future off of the city’s negotiations with the Freeman group and on to its ticket drive.
Speaking to reporters last week after addressing the Greater Nashville Hotel and Lodging Association, Dean said that the outcome of current negotiations would not determine if the Predators leave or stay in Nashville.
“We need to focus on keeping them here by selling tickets,” Dean said.
David Fox, of the public relations firm McNeely, Pigott and Fox, on Tuesday said that the “Our Team” ticket drive has to date sold 2,550 season tickets.
Before the drive started in June the number of “full season equivalent” Predators tickets was 7,000. That number is now at 9,550, Fox said, speaking for the “Our Team” consortium.
At the end of last season, the Predators’ 8,758 full season equivalent tickets resulted in a figure of 13,800 tickets per game, just shy of the 14,000 threshold needed to keep the team in Nashville beyond next season.
“It’s been successful,” Fox said of the ticket drive, “but we still have more work to do.”