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Bridgestone Arena: 15 Years In 15 Days -- 2003

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

15 Years: Drawing Business To Downtown

Today we explore the direct correlation between the presence of Bridgestone Arena and the business growth Downtown Nashville and beyond has experienced. City leaders use Bridgestone Arena as a key selling point when companies outside of Middle Tennessee are looking to expand or relocate. The venue is also utilized to show Nashville as a community that is active and progressive, which is exhibited dozens of times each year with Predators games. The result has been evident, as many regional, national and international corporations now call Nashville home.

Ralph Schulz (Chamber of Commerce) The Year In Review Did You Know In Their Own Words

Ralph Schulz, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
Ralph Schulz is President/CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and has been a leader in expanding Nashville’s business community.

2003 Year-In-Review at Bridgestone Arena

Nashville Predators games boast many elements unique to Music City-style hockey. The famed “fang fingers,” the college game atmosphere (complete with a myriad of organized chants) and intermission bands all make for a special atmosphere, but one tradition has been raising eyebrows since its first documented sighting on Oct. 30, 2003, when the Preds took on the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena. During the contest, a fan managed to toss a catfish over the glass and onto the ice in celebration of the Preds first goal of the game. The Southern fish has made several appearances since that day, despite that fact that the meaning behind it remains murky. The most plausible explanation for the kitten-faced fish toss has much to do with a rivalry. Red Wings fans have a longstanding tradition of throwing octopi onto the ice during games, symbolizing the eight wins it used to take to win the Stanley Cup. With the teams’ rivalry in full swing by 2003, it is highly likely a fan decided to combat the eight-legged menace by forming a new tradition with a fishy, Southern twist.

It's not uncommon to see catfish sliding across the Bridgestone Arena ice

Jon Bon Jovi rocked Lower Broadway on Valentine's Day in 2003
For fans of Bon Jovi, there was no better way to spend Valentine’s Day in 2003. The legendary rock band took the stage at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 14 and didn’t disappoint the sold-out crowd. Bon Jovi opened with “Bounce” and followed with such hits as “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “It’s My Life.” One of the highlights came when Richie Sambora sang lead vocals on “I’ll Be There For You.” Those who saw the show at Bridgestone Arena received an extra bonus when the Goo Goo Dolls strolled out as the opening act. Later, Bon Jovi proved why it was one of the most successful bands in the world. They have sold 130 million records worldwide and released 11 studio albums..
One of the hottest artists of 2003 was rapper 50 Cent, and he, like countless other superstars, knew he had to play Nashville. The concert took place on April 13 at Bridgestone Arena and it was the hottest ticket in town. 50 Cent was on his way to becoming the world’s most famous rapper, and his 2003 album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’ ” catapulted him to superstardom. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold 872,000 in the first four days. It went on to be certified six times platinum. The Bridgestone Arena show exhibited the wide variety of music that Nashville embraces, from country to rock to pop to rap. Multiple rap concerts have played Bridgestone Arena since the 50 Cent event, and fans from Tennessee and bordering states have consistently showed up in force.
50 Cent's tour captivated Bridgetone Arena in April 2003
The NHL's elite converged in Music City for the '03 NHL Entry Draft, a boon for both the city and the team, as the Preds stocked up including first round pick Ryan Suter.
During the third weekend in June, the hockey world convened in Nashville for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, which offered one of the deepest talent pools in league history. More than 13,000 fans attended the two-day event which put millions of dollars into Middle Tennessee’s economy. Every player selected from pick Nos. 1-33 have made it to the NHL – unheard of in this day and age. The list of players to emerge from the Music City draft read like a who’s who of Olympians, All-Stars and NHL Award winners. It includes Marc-Andre Fleury (No. 1, Pittsburgh), Eric Staal (No. 2, Carolina), Jeff Carter (No. 11, Philadelphia), Zach Parise (No. 17, New Jersey), Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (No. 19 & 28, Anaheim) Ryan Kesler (No. 23, Vancouver) and many, many more. The Predators took full advantage as well. Nashville made 13 picks overall, including eight of the first 98 players selected, and took the opportunity to bolster the organizational blue line by drafting defensemen Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein and Shea Weber.
It was April 7, 2003 and Bridgestone Arena was hot. The Flameworthy Awards burned bright in Nashville as the superstars of country music gathered for a top-notch awards show. Toby Keith and Pamela Anderson co-hosted the event, which honored current chart-toppers and longtime legends who helped set the genre’s foundation. Winners included Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Joe Nichols, Rascal Flatts, and Shania Twain. One of the most memorable moments came when Johnny Cash was honored with a special Flameworthy award. It was presented by Vince Gill, who introduced a video montage that included interviews with his daughter Rosanne as well as artists Kris Kristofferson, Bono, and the Dixie Chicks, among others.

CMT stayed right at home in Music City to host the 2003 Flameworthy Awards, including a touching tribute to the legendary Johnny Cash.

Did You Know:

  • The 2003 NHL Entry Draft had an estimated economic impact of $10 million on Middle Tennessee.
  • Bridgestone Arena is a one-million square foot facility and has a seating capacity of 20,000 for concerts, 19,395 for basketball games and 17,113 for Preds games.
  • Bridgestone Arena hosts more than 150 events each year, including Preds games, concerts, family shows and community events.

In Their Own Words:

"I can remember when I first moved here in 1990, you never went down to Lower Broadway. The only time you may have come down here was if you had people in from out of town and you wanted to show them Tootsies. The Ryman wasn’t even open back then. Downtown and Lower Broadway are so much more vibrant now since the arena was built."
   --Original Bridgestone Arena Employee, Bob Kohl, Senior Director of Broadcasting

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