New Bridgestone Arena Deal Keeps Predators, Eliminates City Subsidy | Nashville Public Radio

New Bridgestone Arena Deal Keeps Predators, Eliminates City Subsidy

May 16, 2019

An overhauled agreement will dramatically change how downtown Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena is funded and managed. 

The new deal, presented Thursday morning to the Metro Sports Authority, keeps the Predators at the arena for the next 30 years and eliminates the annual city subsidy that Metro has been paying to the managers of the arena — saving the city several million dollars per year.

The new arrangement was first reported by The Tennessean. The Metro Sports Authority still must approve it before a July 1 deadline, but both city and team officials are already touting the changes.

“Everybody wants the Preds to stay. The 30-year time frame allows them the opportunity to make some investments in the stadium itself and gets the taxpayers off the hook,” Mayor David Briley told WPLN.

The mayor noted the city first built Bridgestone Arena without an identified tenant — “a big, significant risk.”

“It paid off, because ultimately the Predators came, and we’ve seen a lot of vitality downtown,” Briley said. “My objective was to … reap the benefit of the city’s prior investment and all the activity in town, and we’ve done that by eliminating the subsidy.”

The arena’s prime location is also a major reason the team wants to stay and invest in what some franchises might consider an aging facility, Predators CEO Sean Henry told the Sports Authority.

“If somebody came to us today and said, ‘Here’s a billion dollars, build the greatest arena ever built, but it can’t be at 501 Broadway,’ I think we’d all agree we’d say ‘no’ to that,” he said.

Bridgestone Arena, built in 1996, could undergo $350 million in upgrades in the next 30 years, according to the Nashville Predators.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

Henry said other teams nationwide are mostly pursuing new facilities — often with a threat of relocating — but that the Predators are going all in on Bridgestone. That includes an estimated $350 million in arena upgrades over the next three decades.

Yet it wasn’t that long ago that the Preds themselves threatened to leave. A “crisis,” in 2007, Henry said.

But the following years saw the team become a perennial playoff contender. Meanwhile, the arena vaulted into the upper echelon of entertainment venues. Bridgestone often ranks among the 10 busiest venues in the world.

“We’re a model for others to look at. As a city, as an authority, and as a team,” Henry said.

Details Of The Deal

The new agreement radically changes how the arena’s operations and capital projects are funded, and would eliminate up to $10 million that Metro has been responsible for annually, according to a summary presented to the Sports Authority.

Metro Law Director Jon Cooper presented a new Bridgestone Arena management deal to the Metro Sports Authority on Thursday.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

As presented, the city would no longer need to cover operating losses, debt payments, or fees to private arena operator Powers Management.

“All of the risk is being shifted to the team,” said Metro Law Director Jon Cooper.

Without that city funding, fees on tickets will increase, shifting the burden to those who use the facility, Cooper said.

More: Read prior coverage of Bridgestone Arena.

The Metro Sports Authority will maintain the power to review arena projects.

In addressing the group, Cooper outlined a number of contractual safeguards — like requirements that excess revenues first go toward paying down debt; that the management company is incentivized to use the building for as many events as possible; and that ticket fee revenues must go toward facility maintenance and improvements.

This story was updated Thursday to include details from the Metro Sports Authority meeting.