The Great Hockey Crisis

Predators Rally

Time for a real Debbie Downer moment, here. I went by the predators rally yesterday, mostly just to document it for posterity’s sake. I went in for a few minutes, took some pictures, and left. I’m sorry, but honestly? I just can’t really get that motivated or excited about the future of the Predators. I like hockey, I really do. I like sports. I like going to Hockey games — they’re loads of fun. But for a variety of reasons, I don’t really find it to be that big of a deal. I think it would be bad for the city economically if they left, so to that extent I think it’s important that they stay. But I find it difficult to get too worked up about it.

I guess as I sat there in there watching the arena filled with people patting themselves on the back for buying over 700 season tickets, I couldn’t help wondering if our priorities are a little out of whack, as my thoughts turn to the various URA meetings and forums on affordable housing and homelessness I’ve attended over the last couple of weeks. We can get ourselves worked up into a fervor over the prospect of losing the Predators or gaining a baseball stadium, but the extent of our interest regarding the homeless amounts to “why don’t we just arrest them all”. There was a lot of talk about “community” and “coming together” at the rally. I dunno, the contrast of this mass hysteria to the yawning apathy at the other events was striking.

I think a lot of it has to do with Nashville’s chronic inferiority complex. A predominant theme of this latest crisis and the rally was “we’re going to show everyone that we are a hockey town.” But if our private ticket purchases and attendance are so low, you know … maybe we’re not, actually. Maybe we’re not a hockey town. Who cares? I like hockey, but not enough to make it some sort of grand civic crisis to convince the town that it’s really important that we have hockey. If we can get a private consortium to buy the team, take the reigns and pay the bills, then hey, go for it.

Do I want a hockey team in Nashville? Sure, but call me when we’ve got affordable housing for those who need it, homeless shelters that are worth a shit, public bathrooms, parks that aren’t flooded with people that have nowhere else to go. Let’s start there and work our way up. Then we can worry about hockey teams and baseball stadiums.

You may begin flaming me below:

11 Comments so far

  1. Jackson Miller (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 2:21 pm

    Nice post Chris!

    What if we put affordable housing in the baseball stadium? The plans I saw for the stadium had some pretty sweet condos in them. I know it is prime real estate and all, but aren’t you supposed to tithe with your best 10%?


  2. Tim Morgan (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

    I’d rather fight for a healthy AAA baseball team in a new downtown stadium than fight to keep the Predators.


  3. Christy (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

    Well said. As much as I don’t want to see the Preds go, that seems like to be the least of our problems.


  4. Andrew (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

    The priorities you mention in your post – affordable housing, worthwhile homeless shelters, public bathrooms, etc. – are generally funded in large part by tax dollars. Metro doesn’t charge an income tax, instead raising revenues primarily through sales and use taxes and property taxes. Such levies raise more revenue for the city when locals and tourists spend more money and when property values rise, all of which are byproducts of having a thriving urban center and a successful hockey team.

    Obviously, they’re byproducts of millions of other things, too, but the Predators’ economic impact (which you say you care about) also happens to affect the priorities that matter most to you. Healthy, vibrant cities raise more tax revenue, which in turn leads to these cities becoming even more healthy and vibrant.

    I understand if you’re not a hockey fan per se, but if you’re a fan of our hometown and like living in a truly viable city, you should support one of the many things that helps Nashville thrive.


  5. Chris Wage (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

    The priorities you mention in your post – affordable housing, worthwhile homeless shelters, public bathrooms, etc. – are generally funded in large part by tax dollars. Metro doesn’t charge an income tax, instead raising revenues primarily through sales and use taxes and property taxes.

    Hopefully I can count on Jackson to chime in here about what he thinks about this.. :)

    I understand if you’re not a hockey fan per se, but if you’re a fan of our hometown and like living in a truly viable city, you should support one of the many things that helps Nashville thrive.

    I guess maybe I didn’t make that clear: I am a hockey fan — I like hockey a lot more than any other sport we have. My point (as I mentioned over on volunteervoters as well) is not that I think it’s an either/or thing. Instead, what I’m concerned about is that it doesn’t seem to be a priority at all, compared to the hysteria over the Predators or the Sounds stadium.

    It’s this disconnect that worries me. It doesn’t matter how much sales tax revenue we bring in if the people in this city aren’t ready to confront the problems facing us with the same conviction and excitement they muster to save their hockey team.

    First it was the convention center. Then it was the arena. Then it was the coliseum. Now it’s … another convention center. When do we see the miraculous pay-off for all these “investments” in our civic infrastructure?


  6. Jackson Miller (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

    Well, I guess with an invitation like that I am obligated.

    Andrew, that is a great idea. I completely agree that we should create a state income tax to ensure (or insure even) that everyone has the things they need. You know, things like food, shelter, and health insurance.

    What I like about Chris’ initial post is that he is taking a fiscally conservative stance of “don’t interfere with the market”. There is no need for corporate tax breaks and governmental subsidies for things like a hockey team or a baseball stadium or a convention center. I think he was just making the point that there are some things that we as a community should choose to make a priority out of compassion that a free market will not take care of. You know, things like food and shelter.

    I guess it comes down to where you want the city’s compassion and charity to go. The less fortunate among us, or the hockey fans among us.

    (Note: I really enjoy going to Predators games. It is a nice thing. I must admit though. I do enjoy having a house much more.)


  7. Andrew (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

    Look, I am fully aware of the regressive nature of sales and use taxes. But this isn’t a discussion about tax fairness. The tax breaks and city money spent on Sommet Center are sunk costs – they’ll continue unchanged regardless of whether or not the Preds stay. This rally was for individuals and business to buy more tickets. Which they did.

    Furthermore, I take issue with this point:

    It doesn’t matter how much sales tax revenue we bring in if the people in this city aren’t ready to confront the problems facing us with the same conviction and excitement they muster to save their hockey team.

    It does matter! The fact is that you’ll never have nearly as many people excited about saving the homeless as about saving a pro sports team. That’s life. So support the team and other endeavors that lead to more tax revenue – revenue that can hopefully be spent on the priorities you mention (affordable housing, homeless shelters, et al).


  8. Paul Nicholson (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

    Agree with Andrew.

    I would love to have the city devote 20 times the resources they do now for homeless shelters and rehab centers and the like. But the reality is, that just isn’t as popular. But there is a definite (using this word with some regret) tickle-down economic effect. The Predators being here makes Nashville a better, more attractive city and brings in more tax revenues directly (itself, businesses on lower Broad, etc), and indirectly (city is attractive to new business relocations, workers, etc).

    If nothing else, there are a large number of panhandlers that make a killing of me every time i walk to and from a game. :-)

    If this was a rally to try to convince the city or state to finance a bail-out for the Predators i would have been against it, as much as i am a die-hard fan. But the governor went out of his way last night (and in articles in the paper today) to say that he was there as an individual (read: millionaire), and would not and could not use the office of the governor to support the team.

    I think our next campaign should maybe be to get the Predators Foundation to increase homeless involvement, etc.


  9. Chris Wage (unregistered) on July 20th, 2007 @ 4:37 pm

    But the governor went out of his way last night (and in articles in the paper today) to say that he was there as an individual (read: millionaire)

    Heh..

    Yeah, trickle-down is the elephant phrase in the room no one wanted to mention. So, I guess what I’m saying is that funds don’t trickle-down unless they’re allocated, and I don’t see any past indication that civic endeavors (convention center, arena, stadium, etc..) have trickled into the areas they’re needed most. To be fair, we haven’t ever seen the growing pains before that we’re seeing now, either..


  10. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on July 21st, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

    Winnipeg and Quebec City both lost their NHL teams and they’re still around. Truthfully I’m surprised that the NHL does even as much business as it does in the US. There’s no history there, and few if any states have much connection to their teams or the players.

    When we (Vancouver) lost the Grizzlies I couldn’t be arsed. I went to one game and it was a sport that didn’t appeal to me, played by people who weren’t from Vancouver, from Canada or who even really wanted to be there, maybe if Steve Nash had been on the team it would have attracted more interest but Canada’s one famous player has never played for a canuck team.

    I’d imagine hockey would be a hard sell in Nashville for the same reason, though obviously there are more good American hockey players than Canadian basketball players.

    And if there is great support for the team a new one will take its place. Minnesota lost their team but now have one once again. Let’s face it though hockey will never be a major sport in the US, at least until global warming makes it impossible to play outdoor sports like baseball and football.


  11. Rod (unregistered) on July 24th, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

    “we’re going to show everyone that we are a hockey town.” But if our private ticket purchases and attendance are so low, you know … maybe we’re not, actually”

    And, really, what is the problem with that? Vancouver turned out to not be a basketball town. Will the NBA return to Vancouver some day? Maybe. They went back into Minnesota, Charlotte and New Orleans. Maybe the timing just wasn’t right. If Nashville loses the Preds, yeah it’ll suck for awhile. Others will say, “who cares?” Hell, the NHL is on its second go around with Ohio, having the Cleveland Barons back in the ’70s.

    Just because it might not work once doesn’t mean that it might not work again.

    – Rod (Metroblogging Vancouver)



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