Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
Bridgestone Arena 501 Broadway Nashville, TN 37203
Year Opened: 1996
Bridgestone Arena – Nashville Predators
Nashville might be the “Music City,” but the area surrounding Bridgestone Arena, at the corner of Broadway and Rep. John Lewis Way, has come to be known by the fan-created moniker, Smashville.
The NHL made an, at the time, unlikely home in Nashville to start the 1998 season, but hockey in the city has a history that goes back to the 1960s. The Nashville Dixie Flyers played in the Eastern Hockey League for nine years, until the league folded in the early 70s. Professional hockey would return for several short stints throughout the 80s, first as the Nashville South Stars of the Central Hockey League, then the Nashville Knights of the ECHL.
A second incarnation of the Central Hockey League would return to Nashville in the 90s, as the Nighthawks would take the ice for the 1996 season, but would soon be rebranded as the Nashville Ice Flyers; the Ice Flyers came to an end once the Predators started to play in 1998.
Though the hockey history in Nashville might be relatively brief compared to some of the stalwarts in the league, the Predators have done well in establishing themselves as one of the tops draws in the NHL, both through the success they have seen on the ice, and in the accompanying environment they have created.
Food & Beverage 5
Bridgestone Arena offers an extremely thorough menu of food that stretches from the typical stadium fare of hot dogs, nachos, pizza, pretzels, and Dippin’ Dots to self-spinning cotton candy machines. Southern delights of mac and cheese, BBQ served several different ways, and even a carving station offering up traditional Southern meats. Finally, no trip to Nashville would be complete without the classic Nashville hot chicken – the Nashvillian delight is served up as a sandwich or just with tenders.
Stands are plentiful around the concourse, which helps keep lines short. Several self-serve Twice Daily locations also bring their convenience stores into the arena. There are also a handful of kiosks, where fans can order before proceeding to the neighboring stand to pick up their food.
One of the highlights of the food of Bridgestone Arena is the Rotier’s burger stand. Rotier’s had been a Nashville institution since 1945 but had fallen victim to the COVID shutdown. Though it does not have the same atmosphere, the legacy of the restaurant has been kept alive in the arena.
The food and drink offerings at Bridgestone Arena provide a deep selection of options when it comes to food, beer, wine, and spirits. Prices are consistent with what you would expect to pay at most professional sporting venues. Bridgestone Arena is cashless, so be prepared to pay either with a card or with ApplePay.
For a facility approaching 30 years old, Bridgestone Arena has a rather modern feel to it. The main entrance features a large, rounded overhanging roof with enormous glass sections that allow fans to look out at the Nashville skyline. Meanwhile, the antenna-topped, glass cone-like structure adjacent to Bridgestone Arena serves as an entryway to the Nashville Visitors Center and the Tennessee State Sports Hall of Fame.
The Predators have created a party plaza just outside of the main entry point where fans gather before going into the arena. With various vendors, games, and music playing, it is a very good way to bring the excitement of Broadway to Bridgestone Arena.
Immediately upon passing through the main entry points, fans are faced with several options. Grab a beer from the various beer stands or bars, scan the multitude of concessions, visit the team store for some Predators gear, or simply explore the arena. There are several areas for fans to take photos, watch the live pregame show, or for young fans to take part in any of the several activities around the concourse.
Fans arriving early will find a dimmed arena with graphics for the day’s match-up projected onto the ice, in anticipation of the teams coming out for warmups.
Bridgestone Arena offers several different game experiences, from the typical seat to various clubs and suites. The rink-level Lexus Lounge gives fans access to a large bar backed with a wall of televisions, several buffets, a self-serve candy shop, and a Bloody Mary station for those noon puck drops. The Lexus Lounge also allows a unique opportunity for fans to interact with the Predators players as they exit the locker room and take the ice.
Back inside the rink, ribbon boards between the levels of the arena show a rotation of statistical information throughout the game. The ribbons on opposing ends of the rink also provide closed captioning of game information and public address announcements.
Fang Vision is a massive four-sided scoreboard with fang-like corner screens that billow out white clouds of fog as the arena’s goal horn sounds. There are also screens on the underside of the board that keep fans at ice level from having to strain their neck looking up the whole game.
The Predator’s public address announcer Paul McCann does an excellent job at establishing a fun atmosphere that has evolved to being fan interactive. Following his announcements the crowd responds in unison, “Thanks, Paul!”.
There are not many arenas that can provide as much in the surrounding area as Bridgestone Arena has to offer – the facility is in one of the top entertainment districts in the country. Located at the head of the Honky Tonk Highway, Bridgestone Arena serves almost as the gateway to the bar and entertainment district of Nashville. However, it is not just the bars and music joints that make the area special – the historic Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum are all just steps from the venue.
If looking to pair a Predators game with other professional sports, just across the Cumberland River is Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans, who will still have a few home games left as the Preds get their season started. Or, games later in the hockey season crossover with the start of Major League Soccer and Minor League Baseball, so catching a Nashville Sounds game at First Horizon Park or a Nashville SC match are also possibilities.
Predators fans make Bridgestone Arena one of the loudest, if not THE loudest, barns in the league. During the 2017 Western Conference Finals the noise level reached just a few tenths of a decibel under 130, which is akin to the level of a jet engine.
Even with the Predators not seeing the same level of success they are accustomed to having, they still fill Bridgestone Arena over its capacity each game. At an average capacity of 101.4% each night, it places Nashville fourth in the league when looking at attendance based on how full the arena is.
Nashville fans are extremely involved in the game, which is led mostly by the Predators dedicated fan group in Section 303, better known as Cell Block 303. This group of fans are the leaders in cheers, chants, and the heckling of opposing players, most of which are directed toward the opposing team’s goalie and end with “YOU SUCK!”. The group has a Cell Block 303 website that provides a rundown of chants and what to expect throughout the game.
Overall, Predators fans are into the game and cheer, or jeer plays on the ice, and add a lot when it comes to creating a fun game atmosphere.
Downtown arenas come with many perks, and unfortunately one of the drawbacks is there is always going to be traffic and congestion to contend with, and Bridgestone Arena is no exception. The area is conveniently located close to the junction of three major interstates that feed into downtown Nashville; the challenge is navigating the roads, traffic, and construction.
The area is full of parking options, but the most economical is possibly the $10 garage at the Nashville Library, which is just a short walk to Bridgestone Arena from here.
There are three primary entry points into Bridgestone Arena. The main Party Plaza on Broadway welcomes fans to two of these entry points and has separate lines for those with and without bags, helping expedite the entry process. Though bags are allowed, see the arena policies for specifics on bag limitations. The third entry point is located on Demonbreun Street on the back side of the building.
Once inside the arena, wide concourses make getting around rather easy. Concession stands are plentiful, which helps limit wait times and keeps lines from interrupting the flow of fans on the concourse. One area that does get a bit backed up is the restrooms during intermissions; try to plan those visits at other times to keep from having to wait.
Return on Investment 3
It is no secret; professional sports can be expensive. According to the 2021-22 Fan Cost Index compiled by Team Marketing Report, the Predators were in the Top 10 for most expensive tickets in the NHL. While tickets to NHL games can be expensive, the trick is finding promotions and workarounds to make the excitement of the game much more affordable.
For example, at Bridgestone Arena, one hundred tickets are released at 10 am (CT) each game day for just $15, but fans must access the code on the Predators’ Special Offers page for access. The Preds also offer discounts for first responders and military members registered through GovX.
Standard upper-level seats start at $35, while main-level seats begin at $95, before fees. If just being in the arena is the goal, standing-room-only tickets or a concourse pass might be the way to go.
The main level concourse was designed with an ode to the country music history of the city in mind – the floor is designed to resemble a guitar with strings and fret markers, and the façade of the second level is patterned after the keys of a piano.
The fan information area has an interesting history of the skull and leg bones of the Saber Tooth Tiger that was found just blocks from the arena and provided the inspiration for the Predators name.
Also in the fan information area is a fish tank with a catfish in it, along with an explanation of the history of fans tossing a dead catfish onto the ice. The Zamboni beer stands near the main entry point are a fun touch.
The Predators recently unveiled their first statue, that of goaltender Pekka Rinne – Rinne also had his number 35 retired during the 2021-2022 season, the first in Predators’ history.
When Nashville was first awarded an NHL franchise in 1997, many did not think hockey in the state, better known for its allegiance to the University of Tennessee and ‘Rocky Top’ would work. Nothing could be further from the truth; not only has hockey worked in Nashville, but it has also thrived.
Hockey in Nashville is an amazing experience, including both the in-game entertainment and the excitement of the game on the ice. But what sets Bridgestone Arena apart is the vibe of Nashville’s Broadway, which has been brought in just steps from the front doors – this feeling helps bring the party atmosphere of the area into the game.