On Wednesday, the Nashville Predators responded to a column published in Wednesday's Vancouver Province entitled "Preds offend the league, not just Modano." The article, written by columnist Tony Gallagher, contends that Dallas Stars president Jim Lites didn't go far enough when criticizing the Predators organization in the media earlier this week. Predators general manager David Poile responded to Lites' comments in a conference call on Monday (see related story, "Poile on Lites' comments and Tootoo").
In his column, Gallagher writes, "But Poile was lucky Lites didn't really get into detail about how this franchise takes and takes, particularly from the citizens of Nashville." The full column can be read here.
Gerry Helper, the Predators' senior vice president of communications and development responded to Gallagher's column in a letter to the editor sent to The Province on Monday. Here is the text of that letter:
Tony Gallagher's column "Preds offend the league, not just Modano" in Wednesday's Vancouver Province is so littered with inaccuracies, half-truths and outright lies that it appears as if lazy reporting and the author's personal agenda have gotten the better of providing an accurate analysis. In doing his research for the story, Gallagher never bothered to contact the Nashville Predators to make sure that the details he was trotting out had any basis in reality. Furthermore, we find it outrageous that the Province would even put itself in such a legally vulnerable position to print a column built on such fabrication.
Also concerning to us is that Mr. Gallagher's column uses several of the same inaccuracies as a column by Al Strachan that appeared on foxsports.com in early Februaryâ€”a column that was pulled within one hour of a call made to point out its factual errors. It appears Mr. Gallagher is not only guilty of being inaccurate but also of bad judgment in the least, and possibly, plagiarism. (We'd be more than willing to share the foxsports.com column for comparison).
A few examples of inaccuracies in "Preds offend the league, not just Modano":
1. "Remember, this is a team that was virtually given a brand new rink at a cost then of $145 million U.S. to the local taxpayers." The decision to build the Nashville Arena (opened in 1996) was made well before the Predators were ever awarded a conditional NHL franchise in 1997. In fact, several other teams turned down moving to Nashville including the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves and the New Jersey Devils. The lease agreement that the Predators assumed was the same deal that was offered to the Devils (and they turned it down).
2. "And then when the ownership complained that the building didn't have luxury boxes, the city snapped to it and threw in $14 million to provide them." Again, this was part of the overall deal that was offered to two other teams to relocate to Nashville. This was part of the package that the city was willing to offer to any team. The Predators accepted the offer without negotiating or "demanding" that this be done.
3. "Next on their list of demands was 25 per cent of the team's $80 million US expansion fee, for which the Predators kindly agreed to pay the grand total of $50,000 per year in rent on the facility." The Predators are required to pay at a minimum of $750,000 per year in rent but have been paying closer to $1 million per year. In addition, the Predators pay a seat-use charge on their tickets which amounts to over $800,000 per year.
4. "...the Preds needed to have a practice facility, which of course as covered in full by the city." The practice facility was part of the original deal that the city offered to any and all takers and was included in the $14 million. Only a very small area of Centennial Sportsplex, a rink owned, used and operated by the city of Nashville, is dedicated the Preds. The city collects all revenues generated from the practice facility.
5. "The only area where the city gets a sniff comes from concessions, where the Predators get just 40 per cent." The city receives all revenues from non-Predators events and shares in some of the revenue from Predators games. As an example, all concourse advertising is shared 50/50 with the city and the city receives all sales taxes derived from Predators events.
6. "Taxes? Forget about it. The city received no municipal taxes from the Predators." The Predators pay one of the highest sales taxes in the league, amounting to over $2 million per year and also pay a seat-use charge (referenced above) which is over $800,000 each year. With additional taxes, in total, the Predators pay over $3 million in taxes each year that directly benefit the city.
7. "The latest money-levering technique employed by this corporate glutton was to demand the right to another $2 million in payments from the city because attendance wasn't at a previously guaranteed level - the threat being that they would consider moving to another city." The Predators have not demanded $2 million from the city nor have the Predators ever threatened to move.
We recognize that newspaper columnists are paid to be provocative and provide strong opinions. However, it is my suggestion that The Province may be better served by using Gallagher's salary to pay a committee of fact-checkers to insure that columnists' opinions are based on facts as opposed to twisted details manipulated to support their points.
Senior Vice President of Communications and Development