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"Best All-Star Game Ever" Right on Schedule

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

Six months out from Nashville hosting the 2016 NHL All-Star Skills Competition™ and 2016 NHL® All-Star Game, Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena executives involved with orchestrating Music City’s biggest sports event to date say planning and preparation is right on schedule.

The Nashville Sports Council, Predators, Bridgestone Arena and others involved in the Local Organizing Committee are busy hammering out event logistics, including booking musical guests and mapping out a winter park and outdoor skating rink, that will help make up a month-long celebration of the NHL’s midseason classic. Currently more than halfway through a one-year planning timeline, Predators CEO Jeff Cogen says the Local Organizing Committee and its sub-committees continue to focus on creating the “best All-Star Weekend ever.”

“When we say, ‘This is going to be the best All-Star Game in the 100-year history of the NHL,’ it just kind of rolls out of your mouth first of all, but that helps us know what our goal is,” Cogen said. “[For our fans in Middle Tennessee] we want to create a welcoming environment that has activities related to the event, so even if you don’t have a ticket to the games themselves, you are part of the community, activities and spirit of the event.

“There’s not one simple answer to, ‘What does the ‘best All-Star Weekend’ mean?’ because it means different things to different people and we have approached it like that. We have dissected it and said, ‘OK, what are we doing for our fans and the community? What are we doing for visiting executives, the players [and] the media?’”

Bridgestone Arena Senior Vice President of Booking David Kells says the committees’ specific look at how to make each area of the 2016 NHL® All-Star Weekend unmatched has been eased by a willingness to help from local businesses,musicians and artists.

“Businesses, organizations and people on the music side are reaching out to us wanting to be a part of it,” Kells said. “As for us on the committee, there’s enthusiasm and everybody views this as very special… this could be the only one that’s in town in the next 30 years. Everybody on the committee has the same attitude that the Predators do, that we are representing the city and we want to make it the best thing we can for the city itself, for the local fans to enjoy and for everybody who comes here from out of town to go, ‘Wow, whoever’s following in Nashville’s footsteps has a long way to go.’”

Over the last eight months, the All-Star Weekend’s Local Organizing Committee has often looked to the strategic advantage of Nashville’s longstanding blend of music, sports and entertainment to help them pursue their lofty goal.

“Not to make it sound easy, but it’s what Nashville does,” Kells said. “Nashville coordinates music into events because it's part of our identity, it’s what this city is known for and it's completely natural. It’s not something we’re having to work outside of the bounds to put music into events in Nashville. Music is part of what this city is, it’s what we expect this city to do and we do it well and people step up for it.”

“The assets of Nashville that are intrinsic to Nashville,; Loveless Café, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, and you can continue, they have all been very cooperative, everybody wants to be a part [of the Nashville All-Star experience],” Cogen said.

The commitment and attention to detail seen by Cogen, Kells and everyone they’ve worked with during 2015’s initial eight months has instilled a sense of confidence from the pair going forward. With less than 180 days remaining until the 2016 NHL® All-Star Weekend, Cogen expects the passion of hockey fans and Nashvillians to only grow as Jan. 30 and 31 approaches.

“I see more opportunity as opposed to challenge as we get closer to the event,” said Cogen. “The fact that we’ve already accomplished what we have accomplished to date and it's only [August], speaks volume to how receptive the community has been to all of this...It shows the quality of our partners, the quality of our relationship with our partners and constituents and so on.”

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