The new chairman of the Nashville Predators agreed Friday to keep the team in town through 2012. In exchange, the Metro Sports Authority will not hold the ownership group in default of a contract governing the team’s annual $7 million subsidy from the city.
At issue are the actions of David Freeman, who owns the largest share of the team. He failed to disclose his $3 million lien from the IRS after leading the purchase of the team in 2007. Sports Authority members believe this could have been a breach of contract. They’ve also questioned the ownership group’s financial health, all while wanting to keep another city from stealing away the Predators.
Tom Cigarran, who took over for Freeman as team chairman last month, said leaving has never been part of the plan.
“The one thing the ownership group has in common is we all made our investment in the Predators and continue to invest in the Predators for one reason, and that is to keep the team in Nashville.”
The Predators have committed to another two seasons. The team could have had the option to leave Nashville as early as May 1st if attendance continued to stay below an average of 14,000 per game.
Freeman’s attorneys have dismissed demands from the Sports Authority for being “driven by politics.” Cigarran said the board is doing its job.
“The Sports Authority didn’t bring this issue up, didn’t cause this issue to happen. That came out of the ownership group, and I’m here to assure you that won’t happen again.”
Cigarran said the owners plan to take a more engaged role in the team. He said Freeman will remain part owner as long as he wants to. However, Freeman stepped down as chairman last month.
At the Sports Authority meeting Friday, members also elected a new chairman. J.D. Elliott, who is president of The Memorial Foundation, will serve a one-year term leading the board that acts as landlord for LP Field and Bridgestone Arena.