Sports council asks if national events are boon or drain for city

Monday, March 24, 2008 at 1:41am

Tomorrow, the committee attempting to bring the NCAA Women’s Final Four to Nashville holds its first organizational meeting in its drive make a bid on the annual basketball tournament.

Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors and attorney Margaret Behm are the committee co-chairs, and they have invited a bevy of business and civic leaders to work toward winning one of the five years from 2012 to 2016.

The NCCA is looking for a lot from cities in the specifications, including sales and hotel tax rebates, entertainment and transportation.

For Nashville, the bid would include space in a convention center not yet built.

For the new owners of the Nashville Predators, they will get their first major taste of trying to attract a major sporting event to the Sommet Center affiliate Powers Management manages.

“It’s certainly a demanding bid financially and logistically,” said Scott Ramsey, president and chief executive office of the Nashville Sports Council.

On the fast track?

The big question to be debated is whether the women’s tournament would be good for the city or a drain that isn’t worth the effort. Nashville has to put itself on the fast track because plenty of the aspects of a bid have to be figured quickly to have the bid in by June 2.

Music City is competing against 12 other cities: Denver, Phoenix, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Indianapolis, Cleveland, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tampa and Columbus, Ohio.

Ramsey said Columbus and Nashville are the only two in the group making their first bids on the tournament.

The NCAA will cut the list down in late June, make site visits in the fall and select five winners in November. But Ramsey said Nashville has the positives that make the city competitive.

It’s a new market that is well located geographically, he said. He also said downtown is set up perfectly for the tournament, which runs from Sunday to Tuesday.

“They will dominate our downtown rather than just be another event,” he said.

Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said a consideration is what value the tournament.

“It’s a good event but not near the return as the Men’s,” Spyridon said referring to the NCAA Men’s Final Four. “I’m not saying don’t do it. It requires a tighter look.”

He pointed out that he counterpart in Phoenix is bidding on the women’s and men’s tournament, with the women’s being a loss leader.

Also, the month of April is a good month for the convention and visitors business, running about 65% occupancy with a good hotel rate, Spyridon said.

“You’ve got to play all that out,” he added.

Ramsey knows the bid will be a challenge.

“There are a lot of hurdles you have to get over the first time you do it,” he said. “We’re thinking we have to raise $2 million to run it.”

He said being the new kid on the block would make for a difficult sale to the NCAA.

“It will really be a challenge for us to sell it to the community as well,” Ramsey said.

For starters, the NCAA doesn’t want to pay anything more on hotel rooms than a favorable rate for the teams and the league staff.

There is no such deal for the hotel rooms fans take or the rooms taken up with a convention that comes along with the tournament. Ramsey said it’s up to the city to determine how it wants to bid the taxes on that.

Part of the convincing the NCAA includes telling the leadership that a new convention center indeed will be ready.

Meanwhile, the new Predators owners through Powers Management will be in the mix.

“Those events we know are huge for the city,” said Ed Lang, the team’s president of business operations.

But it’s not something that would help it in near term. The new lease, if passed by Metro Council, has incentives for bringing more events into the arena.

Lang said the arena didn’t chase events if there was a risk the city would lose money on the deal. The risk is of losses on the new ownership with the new lease.

“We need to drive more business now,” Lang said. “I think what you’ll see is us take on more risk than in the past.”

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By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 7:00

The NCCA is looking for a lot from cities in the specifications, including sales and hotel tax rebates, entertainment and transportation. For Nashville, the bid would include space in a convention center not yet built. ***********************Where is the upside for us? This "DEAL" would tie us down into spending 1 BILLION dollars on a Convention Center we don't need or want and without a debate or vote. (unless you are a business that will profit from it)If it isn't built then what? Whats the liability?We would be wise to pass on this.

By: courier37027 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Wait a minute. George Plaster, who worships at the feet of Nashville Sports Council, said long ago sports events would beg Nashville to take their event. An NCAA men's basketball regional would be here every three years. The women would do the same. Plaz, Willy and Darren said the summer Olympic games dream of former Mayor Richard Fulton would be realized. With Starwood closed, musical artists at Sommet Center would have to lace up ice skates or basketball shoes. There would be hardly any time between a Brad Paisley concert and a college basketball game to break down stage equipment, then install a sports court. Plaz told us the Sommer Center could become a 24/7/365 venue. Because this wasn't his first rodeo.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Aw, someone has a crush on ole Plaz. How cute.Nashville isn't a big-time sports city. Simple as that. At least not until the influx of college graduates eclipses the status quo of morons (id). Maybe one day...

By: BigPapa on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Call me crazy, but it would appear to me that in order to have a 1st class city you don't work from the top down, you establish your self from the bottom up.You don't go after the Final Four, when your schools are in the bottom four, you don't spend money on hockey, when all Metro departments are on thin (financial) ice.If you concentrate on the basic things that make a city great, then these events come to you. So have good roads, good schools, nice parks, safe neighborhoods, and good places to do business and all this extra stuff will want to come here. As a city we are like the guy in the trailor park driving a new Cadillac. We want to appear successful before we really are successful.

By: mccullochd on 12/31/69 at 7:00

By "taking on more risk" I hope Powers Management means getting some decent CONCERTS in Nashville. If I had the capital (or could get it) I'd build a concert venue and take a page from Atlanta on how to pull the good shows. Also, of those cities listed as competitors for this event, I'd say that S.A., Denver, Dallas, Tampa, etc. are far better tourist destinations than Nashville.

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I would argue with Sa and Dallas being better tourist attractions. Don't buy into the Texas and their hype. There is nothing to see in Dallas and SA is only interesting to other Texans.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I've been to Dallas and Tampa, nothing special. I'll take Jeff's word for it on S.A. I think Nashville offers a lot to tourists. I admit that Opryland was a big draw and I'd like to see it come back or another theme park.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Compared to Nashville, SA is Las Vegas.

By: nashbeck on 12/31/69 at 7:00

idgaf, our convention center is not going to cost 1 billion dollars. You're off but over 300 millions dollars. And the cost is not on you, it's on tourists. You know this. We've been over this before. Know your facts bud.

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 7:00

YA RIGHT NASH. wANT TO BUY A BRIDGE IN BROOKLYN?