by Forechecker on 01/22/09 at 01:46 PM ET
I’m sure this story will get the Nashville haters howling! The Tennessean this morning reports that the local ownership group is considering putting their own money to work to purchase enough tickets to make sure the Predators reach the NHL’s revenue sharing targets:
David Freeman stressed that he and the other owners haven’t made that decision, but with millions of dollars on the line, they’ve been discussing the possibility and they can’t wait too long to pull the trigger.
“We’ve consistently said that we’re here to give everything we’ve got to make this work,” Freeman said.
The first point to address here is that it this is allowed within NHL guidelines, as the owners are talking about using their own personal funds to hit the magic mark of 14,000 average paid attendance (the figure normally reported for NHL attendance includes giveaways and doesn’t impact revenue sharing). While many are sure to focus on this as a gimmick that only delays the demise of the NHL in Middle Tennessee, there is an unexpected bit of good news in here that is likely to get overlooked…
Through 22 home games, the Predators’ average paid attendance stands at 13,744, said Ed Lang, president of business operations. That’s 256 tickets short of the 14,000 average required for a full share of the NHL revenue-sharing pool.
This, my friends, is cause for optimism. Through the same point last season, average paid attendance stood at 12,975, finishing the year at 13,429. That is because, as I’ve written here several times before, attendance typically climbs after football season is over, and sure enough, last Saturday’s game against Atlanta was a sellout (making that awful 7-2 loss all the more frustrating). Year-on-year, then, we’re looking at a jump of 769 in paid attendance per game, a 5.9% increase. If they can maintain something close to that pace, they’ll be right around that 14,000 mark by the end of the season. In my mind, this only adds to the urgency for Barry Trotz and David Poile to take bold action to turn around the recent on-ice performance of the team.
One undercurrent that some cynics like to focus on is the window for the ownership group to break the Sommet Center lease after a couple more seasons. That opportunity is tied to two items; missing the 14K paid attendance mark, and the team losing a collective $20 million over the course of the first three seasons under the new lease (in Year 1, they basically broke even). By expressing their willingness to spend personal funds to hit the 14K mark and obtain revenue sharing funds, it is clear that this group is doing everything they can to make the NHL a long-term success here in Nashville. Some folks may not like it, but this team isn’t leaving anytime soon.
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