The news investigation into a proposed new contract between the Nashville Predators and their arena concessions operator Sport Service (a subsidiary of Delaware North, as referred to below) appears to be getting much, much uglier, with a report this evening alleging that Preds COO Sean Henry lied to the Sports Authority when asked about whether the contract had been reviewed with other vendors for a possibly better deal:
At the July meeting of the Nashville Sports Authority, Predators President Sean Henry was asked if he had contacted Delaware North's competitors about the concessions contract he was proposing.
"We reached out to each and every one of them," Henry insisted, explaining that none of them thought they could serve up a better deal.
"What we built with this deal was the best of all those conversations. It can't get much better than this. I think their exact quote is 'stop calling us.'"
But in an August letter obtained under Tennessee's public records law, a senior vice president for Aramark -- Delaware North's biggest competitor -- wrote to Predators CEO Jeff Cogen that he was the one calling after having learned about the "proposed new agreement."
The letter insisted that Aramark was actually prepared to offer "enhanced economic terms" -- in other words a better deal -- with a "greater capital" investment in the arena. It ends, "I hope that you will reconsider our offer."
"The bottom line is he was caught lying before the Sports Authority," said outgoing Metro Council member Michael Craddock after seeing the letter obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
"Why would anyone stand before the Sports Authority and say, oh, we contacted these companies and they told us not to call anymore. We just bothered them and wore 'em out. Then here comes the largest in the United States at this and says, no, they didn't contact us. Gee whiz, come on, man. If you are going to tell a lie, tell one somebody will believe."
Phil Williams' report includes the letters in question, between the Preds and Aramark, in which indeed, the Aramark executive expresses interest in offering a deal. What his report ignores, however, is Jeff Cogen's reply:
I am surprised at your follow up, as other concessionaires told us they couldn't bid on the existing contract once they learned DNC had at least two seasons left under the current deal. We have been told point blank that they won't interfere with DNC's current contract.
Again, while I appreciate your desire, the remaining two years left on the contract leave us with the exclusive option of talking to DNC about an extension that will allow us to improve our current deal immediately. If we don't enter into a new arrangement with DNC, I do look forward to visiting with you in 2013, as we approach the end of this deal, if we were to look beyond Levy and DNC.
Hmm... well, that could explain the "stop calling us" line used by Henry above.
There are legitimate questions to be raised about this proposed new contract - it involves a different revenue stream plan which appears less favorable to the Preds in the short term, in exchange for the vendor kicking in for capital improvements to the concession operations, improvements which would otherwise have to be requested of Metro (and likely denied considering the current economic climate). It's either do this deal, or sit around and wait for two years before throwing it open to a broader array of possible vendors.
Unfortunately, this report doesn't dig into those matters, which truly drive the financial relationship between the team, the arena, and the city. Instead, we have an Investigative Reporter who thinks he has caught a team executive in a falsehood, and is running that up the flagpole, complete with bombastic quotes from an outraged Metro Council member.