NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -The local group that put down a $10 million nonrefundable deposit to buy the Nashville Predators for $193 million signed a deal Friday that includes the purchase agreement with current owner Craig Leipold.
The deal had to be finalized by Friday before the local group's exclusive negotiating rights expired. That would have allowed Leipold to talk with other bidders.
``There's still a ways to go. We still need the financing, still need the city and the lease, still need league approval,'' said Herb Fritch, CEO of HealthSpring Inc. and a member of the local group. ``But in a lot of respects it's amazing how far we've come.''
The local group, which consists of eight partners, had hoped to reach this point two weeks ago. But they want to rework some parts of the team's arena lease.
They are offering to eliminate any chance of the team leaving Nashville in exchange for $3 million to ease past losses and a guarantee of averaging 14,000 in paid attendance each season to ensure the team collects its revenue-sharing from the league.
Those arena issues are being deferred until a new mayor is elected in a run-off Sept. 11.
The delay means the NHL Board of Governors will not be able to consider the purchase at a meeting Sept. 18 because it won't be on the agenda. They will need up to a month to review the sale but could vote by fax.
The local group had been hoping to conclude the purchase before the season opener Oct. 4. Seven of the partners are from Nashville with the only outsider William ``Boots'' Del Biaggio III, who will be selling his minority share in the San Jose Sharks as this deal closes.

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