by Jas Faulkner, Nashville correspondent
During the month of December, Bridgestone Arena enjoyed unprecedented success as a venue, smashing previous overall attendance records with a reported 335,000 people crossing the turnstiles for concerts and sporting events. While some of the concerts have made an impact, including Garth Brooks’ return to the Nashville stage earlier this year; the figures have indicated that this is actually part of a steadily growing trend towards healthier attendance figures.
There are a number of reasons for this. Because of rising gas prices and an ongoing increase in personal civic identification with Nashville; people in the Metro-Davidson county area are generally more motivated to spend their money at home, supporting venues, entities and events that specifically connect to the city’s longstanding iconography as a burgeoning center for sports and entertainment. This is due in no small part to the response many in Middle Tennessee had to the one hundred and fifty year flood that hit Nashville and surrounding communities in May of 2010. All but ignored by the national media and the current administration in Washington, the grassroots efforts towards recovery helped forge a new sense of personal ownership of the city. “We Are Nashville” was the call to action and the motto that was adopted by many during the recovery effort. The slogan became the cultural hangtag of the city, shared by larger organisations such as United Way and Hands On Nashville and by smaller grassroots efforts to help restore the city to what it was before May.
The flood waters had caused a considerable amount of damage to Bridgestone. This led many fans to speculate on on a much smaller and lower key event when it came to the Predators’ annual Skate of the Union gathering in July. The promise of a renewed focus on making Bridgestone a world class venue, the introduction of new faces in the upper levels of the organisation and the announcement of Shea Weber’s promotion to captain of the team generated an atmosphere that belied the bare concrete floor at event level and the still-in-progress nuts and bolts rebuilding that was going on around the event.
The almost religious fervor that followed Skate of the Union was not something that the people on the dias took lightly. Knowing that the underpinnings of support for the development and growth of Bridgestone were in place with the city, arena management and the Predators Organisation knew the time was right to get smart about marketing Bridgestone as a destination and the Predators schedule as the template for family events in the upcoming season. Smart marketing would play a key role in creating brand identity. This marketing effort has led to selllouts and a general sensibility that more closely reflects the excitement during the Predators’ inaugural season than a team in it’s 13th year with an injury-plagued roster that is being rebuilt on the fly. The 2010-2011 iteration of Smashville has generated multiple, sometimes consecutive sellouts, robust sales at the pro shop and a sense of mission at all levels of the organisation.
During December of last year, I talked to many of the people responsible for this success. Their observations will be revealed in this series, where they will have their say about where Nashville hockey as been, where it is going and what it will take to keep up the strong figures the city’s sports community has enjoyed so far this season.
Coming up: We take a look at the history of Bridgestone Arena and it’s relationship with Metro-Davidson County Government.
This is Jas Faulkner hoping everyone had a safe and happy New Year’s Eve. If you haven’t gotten your tickets to Sunday’s game, its time to go online or make some calls to the ‘Stone. They’re playing Columbus, and we know that means some good, old school hockey is going to happen. Do you really want to miss Shea Weber, Shane O’Brien and the gelfling magic that is Sergei Kostitsyn as they take on Rick Nash and company? I didn’t think so. I’ll see you at The ‘Stone and The ‘Plex and online at Facebook and Twitter. Love, peace and hockey, y’all!