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Catching up with Predators President/COO Sean Henry

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
This summer the Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena underwent an organizational restructuring, including bringing on-board new executives Jeff Cogen and Sean Henry. sat down with Nashville Predators President and Chief Operating Officer Sean Henry to talk about his first months with the organization and what's in store for team and arena in 2011.
You've been on the job for four months now, what's your reaction to the job and market place?
Sean Henry: My initial reactions reinforce what I first thought about the market when I took the job. The passion of the fans is strong. One of the things I have really been surprised about is the excitement level from the first puck drop through the end of the game. It is absolutely incredible. People are on their feet and chanting; it's a good mixture of passionate and knowledgeable hockey fans with the enthusiasm of college sports. To me, that is the only thing that has really surprised me through these first few months. You, Jeff Cogen, and David Poile are all in your first season working together. How has that partnership gone and what has the working relationship been like?
Henry: That partnership is something that has to be in place before anything else. One of the first things that Jeff and I did was to try to understand the numbers. The next step was meeting with David Poile and team leadership to figure out what they would like to see from us, how we should be focusing on the team and bringing the players more to life. David’s input on the business side became a lot of aggressive than in years past, which is invaluable to us.

One of the things that has come out of that is what we are referring to as the “helmets off” philosophy, which means, showing more of the players' personalities -- on the web, during the in-game features, in TV broadcasts. Taking their personalities and the people they are away from the ice and showing that to our fans. That probably wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t sit down with David and the players right away and say how do we work together to build the right partnership.

It has been a lot of fun so far and I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now. It will become a lot stronger through our feature foundation events and how we promote and market the team and most importantly; how we fill the building up. Bridgestone Arena continues to be one of the busiest venues in the country. What has been the most impressive event in the building since you started here?
Henry: It is hard to pick one event as more impressive than another. At the same time, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how impressive the CMA events are and how much work goes into it. In years past, I had seen it on TV and heard that the building had to shut down for a certain number of days leading up to it. I never thought much about what all went into creating a great TV show as well as a great in-arena show. The production crew does it in a fashion that is unbelievable. I really didn’t recognize the magnitude of that event until I had to work through it. On top of that, during the same week, we had the press conference announcing that Garth Brooks would host a benefit concert to aid the victims of the flooding last spring. At the time we anticipated that the one show would turn into several but we never thought it would grow into nine shows. That announcement along with the CMA’s was pretty spectacular. I’ve never been apart of some many shows rolling from sell-out to sell-out to sell-out. The spirit of the community really came alive through those events. I think those to events really jumped off the map for arena events away from the hockey team. How close is the organization to the goals established by yourself, Jeff Cogen and the ownership?
Henry: The goal is to become the premier sports entertainment venue in the country. I would like to take that a little further and become the premier venue in the Western Hemisphere. I hope to build a desire and build upon the work ethic that is already here so we are always striving to achieve more. Even when we become the premier sports entertainment venue in America, I hope we’re not sitting around high-fiving each other and talking about it. We should be trying to come up with the next great thing that will make us even better. Our improvements need to be on a daily basis. Every event should be better than the one before no matter where we rank as a venue. Whether we are the 30th busiest building in the country or the first; whether performers think we are the best-run business on the tour of the 15th best-run. We need to be able to push ourselves a little further.

I do believe that we are a very well run organization; you can see in the awards and accolades the arena has won over the past few months. It is fun talking with promoters, agents and tour managers -- even visiting teams -- and listening to how they feel about our building and our community; their reactions are always very, very positive. In the end, we also have to be sure that we don’t miss out on any tour that is out there. And every time we have a show we have to make sure that we rank in the top two or three as far as attendance goes. When we can achieve that event-to-event, then we will be close to our end goal.
You mentioned the awards the building has won over the past year. How do you top your performance next year?
Henry: Ideally win the facility triple-crown or the hat-trick, if you will. We have already won the IEBA (International Entertainment Buyers Association) Award, ACM (Academy of Country Music) Award and we are finalists for the Pollstar Venue of the Year Award. So now lets go out and win all three in the same year. And once we win it, we will continually, quietly and humbly go about our business and improve on what we are doing. Then every person we see around town, in the grocery store, out at dinner, will talk about what a great experience they had the night before at Bridgestone Arena. I think we are very close to that now. We are a well run organization, very well run building but by further breaking down those silos that we talked about earlier, a better result will happen. To me, the industry awards are great, but it's even better when I go to one of my kids games and I hear people talk about how, "I was at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday and had a great night out; great customer experience and can't wait to go back for another game or show." Those small things that are the awards I want to win.
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