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Bridgestone Arena: 15 Years In 15 Days -- 1998

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
This is the second installment of a 15-day series that will celebrate Bridgestone Arena’s 15th anniversary on Dec. 17, 2011.

15 Years: Preds Partner With The Arena To Grow Middle Tennessee

Today we look at how Bridgestone Arena’s anchor tenant – the Nashville Predators – helped establish the city as a professional sports destination. The arena has hosted dozens of high-profile athletic events, but when it comes to sports, the Preds are primarily responsible for keeping the streets bustling and providing an identity and sense of community to Downtown Nashville.

George Plaster (Sportscaster) The Year In Review Did You Know In Their Own Words

George Plaster, Sportscaster
George Plaster is a longtime and widely-respected sports talk radio host in Nashville.

1998 Year-In-Review at Bridgestone Arena

Long before Garth Brooks played nine consecutive sold out shows over six days at Bridgestone Arena in December of 2010, Garth Brooks was still selling out arenas on the regular. On May 8, 9 and 10, 1998 Garth Brooks played three shows that contributed to the venue’s fastest sellout to that date. That record remained in place until Brooks returned to the Bridgestone Arena main stage for his incredible nine-show, six-day run when he set a new record for Bridgestone Arena and sold out all nine shows in just four hours.

Garth Brooks gets the crowd going in 1998

Celine Dion proudly wears a Predators jersey during her show
In December of 1997 a movie directed by James Cameron was released that took the world by storm. Titanic featured the love story of Jack and Rose (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) set against the backdrop of that famous 1912 crash. At the center of that romance was a song by the name of “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. Less than a year after Titanic’s release, Celine played her first Nashville show at Bridgestone Arena. Did she make her first Nashville appearance special? You bet she did. She closed the show with “My Heart Will Go On” – her biggest hit, one of the best-selling singles of all time and the world's best-selling single of 1998 – from the bow of a boat that appeared on stage for the occasion.
Nashville witnessed its first regular-season NHL game on Oct. 10 as the Predators kicked off their inaugural season in grand fashion. Though the Preds fell 1-0 to the Florida Panthers behind the lone tally from Ray Whitney, a sellout crowd of 17,283 provided an electric atmosphere for the historic event. A combination of civic pride and high-tech entertainment was on display. The game was preceded by a day’s worth of festivities, as players and team personnel made a grand entrance to Bridgestone Arena, pulling up in Army Humvees and walking down a red carpet surrounded by thousands of cheering fans. An elaborate laser show and instructions on the team’s unique “Fang Finger” taunt warmed up those in attendance as they counted down the minutes before the first puck was dropped.
The puck drops for the Preds’ first home game

Elton John plays his first of many shows at Bridgestone Arena
By 1998, Bridgestone Arena had seen its fair share of big-time shows and artists, but in January of 1998 international superstar Elton John made his first appearance at the arena, and the electricity in the air was palpable. Crooning in front of a sold out crowd, the legendary performer belted out his laundry list of hits, with the crowd singing along in full voice. Though Elton John has been back to Bridgestone Arena on several occasions since that night, those lucky enough to attend claim it to be one of the best and most memorable shows they have seen.
Eric Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. His music spans generations and he’s spent a good chuck of those years immersing himself in various group projects – in fact several of his biggest hits, including “Layla” and “Sunshine of Your Love” were not solo recordings. But when Clapton descended on Nashville in May of 1998, it was just a man and his guitar. He captivated a sellout Bridgestone Arena audience with nothing but his voice and his instrument. No intricate show. No pyrotechnics. Just music. He was right at home in Music City.
Eric Clapton had the crowd buzzing following his show

Did You Know:

  • Bloomberg Businessweek recently ranked the Predators No. 1 as the “Smartest Spenders” in all of professional sports.
  • Andrew Brunette scored the Preds' first goal at Bridgestone arena at 5:12 of the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes on October 13, 1998. Nashville went 9-7-2 at home during the 1998 calendar year.
  • Tim McGraw played an annual New Year's Eve Concert at the arena the first four years the building was open.

In Their Own Words:

"To me the area South of Broadway has seen quite a dramatic change in the past 15 year. Before the arena opened SoBro was mostly warehouse space, light industrial businesses and parking lots. 328 Performance Hall was the only entertainment option. Now the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Country Music Hall of Fame, Hall of Fame Park, RCKTWN, The Rutledge, and 3rd and Lindsley have helped widen Nashville’s entertainment boundaries. Both physically and sonically."
   --Original Bridgestone Arena Employee, David Kells, Bridgestone Arena’s Director of Marketing

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