The Nashville Predators figured they had something special when they broke ground on a new facility back in October of 2013.
This weekend, the realization of just how special will come to fruition.
Ford Ice Center, located in Antioch, Tennessee, celebrates its grand opening on Sept. 12, marked with an official ribbon cutting, public skating, fireworks and more.
But that’s just the beginning of the festivities.
The Predators will host a rookie tournament with multiple clubs attending for the first time in franchise history, with Ford Ice as the backdrop. The Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers and
Tampa Bay Lightning will make their way to Nashville, each scheduled to play three contests over four days.
And it’s not just the prospects on the ice who will get to enjoy themselves.
A Party in the Park will take place on both Friday evening and during the day on Saturday, complete with a slew of activities, ranging from live bands and an autograph signing to food trucks and even an oversized video screen. Not to mention NHL rookie games on Saturday and Sunday.
“For our staff, for our players, for Smashville, hockey season starts Sept. 12,” Predators President and COO Sean Henry said. “A lot of times, these rookie tournaments do very well, the building fills up, but we’re filling up a five-acre park, plus the building, to see some of the best young players in the NHL.”
Throughout the season, the goal is to sell out Bridgestone Arena. However, sellout No. 1 is expected to take place this weekend. The Predators offered season-ticket holders the opportunity to reserve seating for this weekend’s tournament, but weren’t sure what the response would be. Their questions were quickly answered.
“The fact that those reservations sold out in just a few hour’s time, it was like a huge concert going on sale, it just blew out,” Henry said. “It’s exceeded our expectations, just a real positive thing.”
There’s no doubt that the rink will be full on Saturday for the rookie contests, but in the long term, Ford Ice Center will be more than capable of hosting travel hockey tournaments, community gatherings and other activities. And even if spectators can’t get inside to see the Preds on Saturday, the carnival-like atmosphere outside will be a welcome alternative.
The Predators have been overwhelmed by the support of the citizens of Smashville in advance of the grand opening weekend, further solidifying the organization’s hope that Ford Ice Center will be more than just two new sheets of ice, but rather an anchor in the community for years to come.
“What’s exciting about Ford Ice Center, we opened it softly a few weeks ago, and the sheer number of people coming through there, we thought we’d have 1,000 people or so the first weekend, and we ended up with close to 10,000 people over the course of a three-day weekend,” Henry said. “The best part about it, there were people you don’t always see at every one of our games.
“The Ford Ice Center is going to be a great addition for the development of passion for on-ice activities, hockey, figure skating, but most importantly, for the Preds as a whole. When you look at what we’re doing this weekend, we know that we’re going to be oversold and it’s a great thing to happen to us.”