Legislation Takes Tax Money Back From Preds

By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Metro Nashville city officials are taking back millions of tax dollars that had been going to the Nashville Predators.

It's money that, by some accounts, the Preds took in a power play down at the state legislature.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates first uncovered that questionable deal, but now both city and team officials insist that they're all on the same side.

"It kind of cleans up a mistake that's been out there for two years now, and it gets it back to the rightful place," said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling.

That money comes from concerts and other non-hockey events at the Bridgestone Arena. 

Under a bill making its way through the legislature, sales taxes from those events would no longer go to the Predators. Instead, it would go to Nashville Sports Authority to help pay the cost of the arena.

"It's a way to get a couple million dollars -- it's really more than $2 million a year that should be used to run the operations of the facility and not to just benefit the Predators," Riebeling added.

In fact, as our NewsChannel 5 investigation first revealed, after the Preds signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Metro officials to keep the team in Nashville, their lobbyists went to state officials and got legislation passed to divert those tax dollars to the team.

Predators CEO Jeff Cogen says that, regardless of how it happened, it was a much-needed subsidy for the team.

"You know whether they acted together or independently, again, I wasn't here at the time," Cogen told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

"The reality of the situation is: it worked. It put the Predators on solid financial standing that there is no risk of them going anywhere. It elevated Bridgestone Arena's performance."

That's why Cogen says the Preds aren't fighting to keep that money.

"We are more than supportive of that action because the economic environment has changed for both parties," he explained.

"Will losing this tax money hurt the team?" we asked.

"No," he answered, "I don't think it will hurt the team per se. It will challenge us to operate more efficiently and we are up for the challenge."

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Now, the Preds are working on a new deal with the Dean administration that will help the team with a lot less taxpayer money in play -- something that both sides describe as a win-win situation.

Both the Dean administration and the Predators declined to discuss what kind of deal they're working on.

They hope to have it hammered out in time to present to the Sports Authority before the middle of April.