The city of Nashville is capable of hosting 10 NHL All-Star Games the next three years, says chief operating officer and president of Bridgestone Arena and the Nashville Predators Sean Henry. In June, the city of Nashville and Bridgestone Arena submitted a bid to host the All-Star Game in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
“With what this city offers, we could host ten all star games this year, ten all-star games the next year and ten the next year,” Henry said in a phone interview Tuesday. “There is no doubt that this city can put on a tremendous show.”
Nashville can put on a show. It does so multiple times annually with events like the CMA Festival and Country Music Awards. Nashville’s success has been donned the nation’s “it” city in a 2013 New York Times article.
The Tennessee capital has hosted various sporting events as well, while having the Titans (NFL) and Predators (NHL). The Bridgestone Arena has been home of men’s and women’s SEC and NCAA basketball tournaments. Across the river, the Music City Bowl finds its home at LP Field.
“When you work on a big event, it doesn’t matter what it is,” Henry said. “All-Star game, SEC basketball, NCAA basketball, whatever it is, there is a certain criteria that goes out. With the all-star game, it is a little different. You’ve got thirty teams in the league and thirty teams want to host it every year.”
The Music City’s attraction for major sporting events was there, but was one thing missing — a state-of-the-art convention center. That need was met with the building of the Music City Center.
“Back when we were doing our lease and the MCC was coming out of the ground,” Henry said, “we, being collectively the city of Nashville, and the NHL realized, wow, when that convention center is done, the new hotel for the convention center is up, it provides new rooms, complimenting a great city already.
“Once that is open, we would be looking at the requirements to host the game and submit it to the League.”
During construction, talks about hosting the All-Star Game were casual. But once the Music City Center opened in May 2013, casual talks turned into realistically looking at the requirements to host the All-Star Game.
“We started socializing with what was required to host the all-star game,” Henry said. “We started working with our partners for the opportunity. We’re still finishing up the details on whats required and how we’re going to fulfill those requirements.”
Henry believes the city and arena are lacking nothing to fulfill the NHL’s criteria for hosting the Game. If so, rest assured, they will be met.
Since Henry has taken over in September 2010, the Bridgestone Arena has constantly been renovated to make it a better venue. To name a couple, the building is no longer plain and dull, but rather colorful with Predators and advertising graphics. Also, there is more food options than ever before. Nevertheless, Henry says he is always looking to improve 501 Broadway.
“There are a lot of needs going forward,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities going forward. Right now we’re putting in a WiFi system, building up the new Lexus Lounge on the event level club. We’re finishing renovating the restaurant. We are building a new personality space on the main concourse, 3 or 4 new breakout areas. Next summer, we are going to replace all the seats in the lower bowl. The following year we are going to replace all the seats and concrete work in the club and upper bowl.”
The renovations are not ending anytime soon, either.
“We are past 3 years and forward looking one year,” Henry said. “We have about $45 million in renovations going in.”
City Mayor Karl Dean has met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman a few times about the possibilities of Nashville hosting the All-Star Game. In a Nashville Ledger editorial by Richard Courtney, he described how Dean was driven to persuade Bettman for the good of the city.
Bettman recalled his first meeting with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and shared that he and his office had a pool wagering on how long it would take Dean to request that Nashville serve as host to the NHL All-Star Game. Bettman bet the mayor would ask within the first three minutes of their conversation. He lost the bet, as Dean asked him in the first minute and a-half.
“Our mayor and our city have never made it a secret that we’d like to host an all-star game,” Henry said.
“We would love to be able to host it here and [I’m] optimistic on this city’s ability to host it.”
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.