- Jared Goodman
Bridgestone Arena – Nashville Predators
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.86
Bridgestone Arena 501 Broadway Nashville, TN 37203
Year Opened: 1996
Hockey on Honky-Tonk Highway
The National Hockey League expanded southward in 1998, granting the Music City an expansion franchise that would come to be known as the Nashville Predators. Both on and off the ice, the addition of professional hockey in Tennessee has amassed great success. The impressive downtown arena that serves as the Predators’ home has been instrumental to this success. Bridgestone Arena, as it’s known today, was built in 1996 and is a state-of-the-art venue that’s truly the pulse of “Smashville.” Many world-class events have already been hosted at Bridgestone during its short lifespan, including several CMA Awards shows, the NHL Entry Draft in 2003, the NHL All-Star Game in 2016, and even the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017. Combined with the on-ice success that the Predators have enjoyed in recent years, Nashville has proven that hockey is alive and well in the South.
Food & Beverage 5
The city that’s been caustically nicknamed “Nashvegas” has embraced this moniker well. Nashville, while still a glitzy party town, is also one of the best in the nation in terms of cuisine. The Music City is practically unrivaled in this category, having mastered foods such as hot chicken, meat and three, buttermilk biscuits, and so much more. And this entire palette of mouthwatering dishes is reflected with great accuracy at Bridgestone Arena.
Everywhere you turn, a different variety of food awaits you. One stand exclusively serves hamburgers, while another offers just barbecue platters. There’s a table for tacos, a cart with praline and cinnamon pecans, and even the famous awning of Dippin’ Dots is present. Bud Light stands are everywhere, wedged between the pretzel twisters, pizza peddlers, popcorn makers, and vodka distillers. The Dunkin’ Donuts folks are somewhere in the mix too, just steps away from the grilled cheese guy. Hot dogs are rolling all over the place, and $13 beers are being sold faster than hot cakes.
But the seemingly endless food choices aren’t limited to simply the main concourse. The Upper and Club Levels are just as jam-packed with concessionaires. If you go hungry in Nashville, you’ve gone wrong somewhere.
Finally, as sports facilities head into the future, Bridgestone Arena is leading the way with their new point-of-sale system at concessionaires. Instead of simply ordering, paying, and receiving your food at the counter, the Predators have divided up this process in an effort to reduce the amount of time spent not watching the action. Now, guests wait in line and place their orders on self-serve computer kiosks. After payment, they receive a number that gets called from the pick-up window when their food is ready. This process appears to be worse than the old one, making things confusing for fans and causing them to wait longer than they would have originally. While this isn’t a new concept, as it’s been widely used throughout the restaurant industry for years, it’s new to the world of sports. Only time will tell if this system is truly an improvement for the fan experience.
It’s called “Smashville” for a reason. Though their notably raucous fan base is an integral part of the game day experience, the Predators organization itself puts on quite a show and knows how to get the crowd riled up.
As they’re introduced to the roaring sea of fans, Predators players enter the ice through a giant sabertooth tiger head that descends from the roof and acts as a tunnel. Nashville’s mascot, the cleverly-named Gnash, also descends from the roof via rope, further adding to the hype. On-ice projections usually accompany all of this, the icing on the cake of what one can only call a performance.
Above all the action hangs “FangVision,” the newly installed high-definition scoreboard. This slick new piece of tech is very unique due to the fact that there are video panels on each corner that are shaped like fangs. The Predators love to use this futuristic-looking video board to disparage their opponents, especially division rivals. For example, when the Dallas Stars come to town, the Preds play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” during Dallas’ player intros and mocks Texas in an edited SpongeBob clip. All of this only adds to the fan experience, whether you’re a Predators fan or not. It’s always entertaining to see professional sports teams jab at one another.
Every single seat in Bridgestone Arena is padded. This level of comfort is extended to everyone in the building, whether you’re right up on the glass or in the last row of the nosebleeds. And while there are a few common areas on the concourse away from the hustle and bustle, the main passageways are rather narrow and can get crowded quickly. This makes moving around during period breaks pretty frustrating and difficult.
Bridgestone Arena was constructed on the corner of 5th and Broadway, located diagonally from the world-famous Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. This location was chosen on purpose, as the arena’s main entrance faces a stretch of Broadway known as the “Honky-Tonk Highway.” This is an extremely popular nightlife spot and makes for a good pre or post-gaming destination.
Since the rink is in the heart of Smashville’s downtown, there are plenty of dining options and a large array of lodging to choose from. Most are within walking distance of the front doors, but hotels here tend to be more expensive than in the suburbs. However, if you’re willing to splurge a little, everything you could possibly need is in one centralized downtown location.
Fans of the Predators were named the “Best Fans in Sports” in 2017, and justifiably so. Each and every game, the Bridgestone Arena crowd cheers or jeers every shot, hit, and goal. Chants are particularly popular, as the arena collectively likes to mock the opposing team. The fans yell “..sucks!” after each opposing player’s name is introduced. When the Predators go shorthanded, the PA announcer proclaims that the away team is on the powerplay and the fans reply, “…and they still suck!”
In fact, the PA guy loves to taunt the crowd and gives them multiple opportunities to get chants started. He pays special attention to section 303, a dedicated area for the most diehard and crazy Predators fans. The section even has its own website (www.section303.com) where fans can see a full listing of all the chants used at Bridgestone.
When the home team is down by a couple of goals at the end of the 2nd, fans start to leave.…in order to grab some more food and get fueled up for the final period! It doesn’t matter how far behind the Predators are trailing, their loyal fan base never gives up.
Interstates 24, 40, and 65 all meet in the Music City, linking up and running concurrently around downtown in a looping manner that resembles spaghetti. The merging highways certainly don’t help ease the traffic, so leave yourself plenty of time if you’re not staying in downtown. Although it does get a bit confusing as you near Nashville’s core, there are many signs pointing you to Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville’s population has exploded in recent years and traffic is only getting worse. It’s not easy to avoid the roads either, as Nashville lacks any large-scale type of public transportation. However, Uber is widely used throughout the Music City and is a good alternative.
Parking is a bit tricky, but not at all expensive if you’re willing to jump through some hoops. If you’re not a season-ticket holder, your best option for parking in downtown is at the Fifth Avenue of the Arts Garage. The rate here is $10 if you buy in advance. Across the Cumberland River from downtown are the lots for Nissan Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Here, Lot R is open for Predators game days that don’t conflict with stadium events – and the charge to use it is $0. It’s a short 15 to 20 minute walk to Bridgestone Arena, via the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, but a shuttle service is also available for $3 round trip. The lot opens 2 hours prior to puck drop and closes at 2am, though shuttle service ends at midnight.
Return on Investment 5
With the Predators enjoying a great deal of success on the ice in recent seasons, expect tickets for certain conference or division matchups to be pricier than other games. Overall, if you look on third-party ticket sellers you should be able to find upper level tickets starting at about $25 apiece.
Some of the dining options at the arena may seem a tad expensive, but rest easy knowing that you’re getting a filling meal for the price. For example: chicken and waffles are $11, a pulled pork platter is $13.50, hot chicken fries are $9.25, and you can even get a 12-inch pizza for $22. So while you may have to fork over a bit more to eat at the arena than you were expecting to, you won’t have to grab some more food after the game. That is, unless you want to.
To wash down all that Nashville goodness, you can grab a small Coca-Cola fountain drink for $4.50, or get the bottomless soda for $9 instead. Bottled Dasani water is $5, which is a bit high but not unreasonable for professional hockey venues. What’s interesting to note is that prices may vary depending on what concession stand you visit. It isn’t much of a difference, but some areas have items randomly priced $.50 or $1 cheaper than at other locations.
Parking rates vary depending on where you decide to leave your car and how far you want to walk. In case of any surprises, fans wanting to play it safe should budget at least $10.
A family of four could reasonably enjoy a night out in Smashville for around $220. And that’s not including post-game honky-tonking on Broadway…
The Predators moniker was selected in 1997 after a sabertooth tiger cat was revealed as the expansion franchise’s new logo. The logo was inspired by a sabertooth tiger skull that was unearthed in 1971 when a nearby downtown building was being constructed.
Attached to Bridgestone Arena is the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, a great little spot that showcases the rich sports history of The Volunteer State. Artifacts from both past and current professional and collegiate teams line the walls of this fascinating museum. There’s even entire areas dedicated to Peyton Manning, Coach Pat Summitt, and Bristol Motor Speedway. This part of the arena, in addition to being accessible on Predators game nights, is open to the general public Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 4pm and admission is $3 per person.
The seating at Bridgestone Arena is actually a little lopsided; the upper level is very deep at one end of the building, but contains just a few rows at the other end. The reasoning behind this oddly shaped bowl is that Nashville, as Music City, hosts dozens upon dozens of concerts each year. As the main concert venue in the city, Bridgestone Arena hosts more concerts than any other US locale outside of Las Vegas. Therefore the lopsided bowl allows performers to set up their stage at the smaller end, facing the larger sections.
There’s also an arcade in the upper level, providing some kind of solace for kids uninterested in hockey. This is a thoughtful addition to the building and isn’t something usually seen elsewhere.
Finally, during the playoffs, a catfish touch-tank is placed on the main concourse. Diehard Predators fans have been known in the past to toss live catfish onto the ice during postseason games, most notably during the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals, in an homage to the Red Wings tradition of tossing octopi onto the playing surface. Embracing this tradition by bringing the catfish to the fans is just another example of the genius marketing that Nashville has exhibited.
Although some have had doubts that hockey can survive in the south, Nashville has continually proven each and every one of those doubters wrong. The Predators have not only survived in Tennessee, but thrived. On the ice, they’ve put together a winning record. In the seats, they’ve created a fantastic and memorable game day experience for their fans. As one of the premier hockey venues in the nation, the Nashville Predators should be proud to have their hunting grounds at Bridgestone Arena.