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Catching Up With Predators CEO Jeff Cogen

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
With the regular season entering the stretch drive, Preds Press sat down with team CEO Jeff Cogen to discuss his first season with the Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena.

Preds Press: Based on your expectations when you started here in August, how have things gone so far?
Jeff Cogen: I think pretty well. We said that job number one was ‘we’re going to fill the building,’ and by all accounts attendance is up. It’s added to the passion in the arena; it’s added to the environment that we play in, so I’m pleased with the results so far. Now, we have to continue that through the final dozen or so of the regular season and hopefully another 16 beyond that. The sales group has done a good job of bringing in new partners, and our customer service has gone well. We can always do better, and we are going to continue to challenge ourselves to improve.

Preds Press: From Day One, you and President Sean Henry emphasized a change in culture. Have you noticed changes starting to evolve?
Cogen: When Sean and I started, I think to a large degree there was a minor league, small market, low payroll mentality. And I think a lot of that had to do with the uncertainty of the situation for a two or three year span – was the team staying, was the team going, could we find local ownership. Well, those questions are answered: the team isn’t going anywhere. There’s a committed local ownership group. Relative to small market, low payroll, we just invested in Mike Fisher – without moving out any payroll. This season the fans have come out in record numbers, and the ownership group did what they have said they would do—they invested that money back into the team to allow us to win championships. And it’s a cycle: the fans come, the team gets better – the team gets better, more fans come out. We plan on continuing that cycle. We’re the Nashville Predators out to win the Stanley Cup. No more small market; no more low payroll.

Preds Press: The team’s 2011-12 Season Ticket renewal campaign recently started, can you talk about that campaign – what are the different items in it this year from past years? How important is this campaign to setting the rest of the team’s goals this summer?
Learn about '11-12 Season Ticket options
Cogen: Season Ticket renewals are a primary core. If we don’t accomplish that, we will not achieve our goals. It’s that simple. Strategically, we’ve linked it with the playoffs so you can early renew and get playoff benefits. We’re also giving a gift if you renew early. So, we’re serious about getting commitments now for next year.

We’re changing our jersey next year, so if you renew early we’re going to give you one of those new-look jerseys as a gift. We also give you 10 percent off the ticket price for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And this year we’re introducing a thing we’re calling Predators Rewards; basically, the more you invest with us, the more you’ll get back – we give you Predators Dollars that you can spend back on game tickets, deposits on suites, food and beverage, merchandise, select arena events and on and on. Those are kind of the benefits and the support relative to the early renewal initiative.

We recognize one size doesn’t fit all, and we’ve tried to create packages and programs that would apply to any segment. We have a pay-in-full option; if you pay in full, we give you $250 extra in Predators Bucks. Or we have a series of payment options: a three-installment option, a seven-installment option and our multi-season option, the 2/20-Plus Plan – where you lock in your price not only for 2011-12 but also 2012-13 and you make those payments over 20 payments. At the end of the day, renewals and our Season Ticketholder base is a core item we must check off or we won’t achieve our goals.

Preds Press: Since the calendar has flipped to 2011 there seems to be a lot more integrated sponsor offers with the Predators. What have been the most successful sponsor elements over the past two-plus months?
 Enter the Ford Pucks In A Truck contest
Cogen: One thing we’re passionate about is integrating our sponsors beyond a sign. We have the Tennessee Lottery Power Ball – ‘Everybody’s a Winner’ – where you can take your lottery ticket to the box office and save on ticket prices. We’ve introduced the Shea Weber Mountain Dew and Crush cans with another opportunity to save at the box office with your empty can. We’re doing Ford Pucks in a Truck where we’re going to give away a Ford F-150 truck at our Fan Appreciation Game, the last regular-season game. And we’re running a Test Drive A Toyota campaign, Purity Dairy is putting the Preds Kids Club on the side of one million milk cartons, and the list continues. We want our partners to be a part of our community, and we want to activate them against in-arena, general market activities that reinforce the Predators brand.

On top of sponsorship, we’re committed to improving the fan experience at games with food and beverage specials, innovative Megatron features. We’re trying to get some high school bands to sit in the stands and play. We’ve had Vince Gill on the band stand, Alice Cooper on the band stand, the Oak Ridge Boys on the band stand – this is what we want people to think of when they think of Smashville and the Nashville Predators experience. This is my fourth hockey team (Dallas, Detroit and Florida are the others) and I can say with certainty that coming to a game at Bridgestone Arena is a very unique experience in the National Hockey League, one that we’re proud of and one we hope to enjoy.

Preds Press: Of all the games and shows that you’ve been to in this building over the past six months, what are the events that stand out the most to you?
Cogen: The standing ovations at TV timeouts, and then in the (Dec. 15) game when Shea Weber drilled that puck past San Jose right after that occurred – that kind of stood out. Watching the Oak Ridge Boys, Vince Gill, Alice Cooper that stood out. The Feb. 27 win against Columbus with David Legwand’s goal, that backhand goal on the top shelf – I went out and stood in the middle of the concourse with my suit and my badge on proud to be Mayor of Smashville, and I watched the crowd file by. It was a memorable experience. I was getting high-fived by fans, and it was just great to be a part of that atmosphere.

Preds Press: What event has been the biggest surprise to you?
upcoming Bridgestone Arena schedule

Cogen: Being a part of the nine Garth Brooks sellouts. That was a very special moment not just because I enjoy his music and he’s a great showman, but to be a part of raising millions of dollars for a very worthy cause, for a cause that so many people have suffered through. As an organization, we donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cause and waived a lot of expenses to help raise more money, but watching the shows and knowing that the rigger was working for free and the usher was working for free – it was real special moment, watching the community coming together to help a good cause.

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