Through 32 home games the Predators are averaging 13,940 fans per game in paid attendance, according to figures compiled by the team.
That’s a 7.6 percent increase from last season, when the Predators were averaging 12,959 fans per game through 32 games.
With the team making a furious drive towards the playoffs, and the regular season home finale usually a lock to be a sellout, it appears that the Predators will attain the key figure of 14,000 average paid attendance, which is one of the eligibility requirements for full NHL revenue sharing.
This achievement also helps assure the team's short-term future in Nashville, as it takes away an opportunity for the current (or any other) ownership group to break the lease and move the team. A big part of the appeal of the Nashville Predators to Jim Balsillie back in 2007 was the potential portability of the franchise, the opportunity to break the lease on the Sommet Center and move the team out of town because of attendance failures. Here's the gist of the attendance clause in the arena lease as amended recently, from the Nashville City Paper:
If the Predators fail to reach an average paid attendance of 14,000 fans for two consecutive year and the owners reach a combined accumulated operating loss of $20 million, the owners can terminate the new lease agreement and presumably leave town.
Doing so will cost the ownership group a fee of $20 million in 2010, $25 million in 2011 and $10 million for every year after that.
By hitting the 14K mark, the team will take that option off the table for the time being. The question is, will that be enough to get the Canadian media off this city's back for a while?