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From Planning to Curtain Closing: How Bridgestone Arena Makes It All Happen

by Kayla Evans / Nashville Predators

Fans are sporting their favorite Predators jerseys and anxiously await puck drop when it is game night in Smashville.

However, before Bridgestone Arena is full of “Preds Pride,” it is full of an entirely different type of team. The men and women who work behind the scenes to make sure there is a rally towel on every chair and a hotdog in your hand for the game. According to Pollstar, the leading trade publication for the concert tour industry, Bridgestone Arena ranked sixth in the United States in ticket sales for 2013. It takes a lot of effort to make a Predators game or a concert run smoothly, but Bridgestone Arena’s staff always delivers.

There are 17,000 seats to fill during a Predators game; these seats frequently resemble a sea of gold when decorated with t-shirts or towels for all guests.

So, just how do all of those seats get stuffed with coupons and other goodies?

“We will usually bring in a volunteer group to help, but our full-time staff will [distribute the items] for the most part,” President/COO Sean Henry said. “We take a couple of hours during the day and have fun with it.”

In addition to giving out gear to pump up Preds fans, Henry says the extra events like Hockey Fights Cancer and Habitat For Humanity are set up almost a year in advance, creating something special for guests each game night in addition to supporting some great causes. Occasionally, extra community events or drives will be added last minute depending on the circumstances.

Whether an event is planned a year or a day in advance, there’s no question that the team behind the scenes at Bridgestone Arena will make it happen.

“You come into the building and you think a lot of things just happened on their own,” Director of Event Presentation Brian Campbell said. “In reality, you have people here literally 24 hours a day. The amount of people and the amount of things that are done behind the scenes that you never see, from the cleaning of the chairs, to the floors, to the graphics that are put up, to the food prep; it’s amazing how much goes into it, and how many different organizations that are working together.”

At a Predators hockey game, there are 500 part-time staff, which includes crowd management and event security personnel, food and beverage employees and housekeeping staff. All in addition to the people who come in before and after each event to get Bridgestone Arena game or concert ready.

Vice President of Facility Operations Tim Friedenberger oversees the changeovers that happen at Bridgestone Arena on a daily basis. If there is a concert the night after the Predators play at home, there is a lengthy process that takes place to turn Bridgestone Arena from a hockey arena to a concert venue.

As soon as the last skate leaves the rink, the ice crew smoothes down the ice and disconnects the spectator netting and glass. Perhaps most importantly, the crew sets down 500 panels to cover the ice and create a floor. Staff also converts locker rooms into dressing rooms, retracts seating and builds the artist’s stage. The entire process can sometimes take eight hours or more.

“You will have guys in our overnight crew that will work a full eight-hour shift, go home and sleep for four hours, and then come back in to get the floor set and all the seating done, go back home and sleep another four hours, and come back again to do another overnight,” Friedenberger said.

Bridgestone Arena Event Coordinator Ashlee Stokely, who was the Event Services Representative in charge of Cher’s D2K Tour that made a stop at Bridgestone Arena on March 31 began work at 4:30 a.m. the day of the event and did not leave until close to 24 hours later.

After Cher sang her last note, crews began preparing for the Bridgestone Arena bowl to play host for the NCAA Women’s Final Four. The Final Four floor was being delivered at 1 a.m., mere hours after Cher’s concert ended, and with a set-up time of two days, there was little time to rest. The changeover process began again.

With so much happening at Bridgestone, making sure the fans have a positive experience is the desired result of all the hard work. Vice President of Event Operations David Chadwell takes this on as his biggest responsibility.

“I believe if the fans have a good time, they will return, and buy more tickets,” Chadwell said. “That’s good for everybody, but it can be a challenge because different fans have different expectations.”

The team behind the scenes at Bridgestone Arena regularly meets that challenge with fantastic results, as evident by the fans that keep flocking back to the arena to see their favorite artists and teams.

The next time your ticket is scanned to enter a game, you purchase a tray of nachos from a vendor, or you catch a glimpse of the ice crew after the game, remember all the work that went into making the evening memorable.

When the night ends for fans after the final buzzer it is just beginning for the folks flipping the arena. No matter the makeover, everyone can always count on having a blast at Bridgestone Arena.

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