Sweeping sand off of a beach-front patio during the summer isn’t glamorous by any means, but everyone has to start somewhere.
Sean Henry has come a long way from his sand-sweeping days, but the foundation laid during those teenage years has set him up for continued success in the future. On Dec. 1, that bedrock stabilized even further.
Now the second CEO in Nashville Predators franchise history, succeeding Jeff Cogen in the position, Henry has taken the helm in overseeing the Preds and Bridgestone Arena’s day-to-day business operations, ensuring Pollstar Magazine’s 2014 Arena of the Year and its primary tenant continue to see positive growth for years to come.
Henry and Cogen were hired together on Aug. 10, 2010 - Cogen as CEO, Henry as President and COO - and together the pair helped take the Predators and Bridgestone Arena to places some never thought possible. Now with Cogen moving on, it’s Henry’s turn to continue what the duo started to build five years ago.
“You thrive on it, you enjoy it, you love it,” Henry said of his position. “The energy, the excitement of what you do every day, it’s pretty neat.”
Henry had stops in Detroit and Tampa Bay, among others, before arriving in Music City, but the connections he’s made along the way, starting on that patio, have helped his rise in the sporting world.
“The first guy I met in Detroit, Ron Campbell, was the CFO of the Pistons; fast forward 10 years later, he’s named the CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning and brings me in to become COO of the Lightning, so throughout my career, there’s continued to be this in and out of people I’ve met,” Henry said. “It’s almost like Forest Gump.”
Life is like a box of chocolates, some have said, and Henry has always embraced what he’s gotten. Now looking back five, 10, 20 years later, at the people he met along the way and subsequently offered him opportunities, Henry is appreciative for the chances he’s received, starting from the time he walked into the home of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons wearing a Boston Celtics hat.
“There are so many individuals that have always given me an opportunity,” Henry said. “They did it maybe before I was ready or took a risk, if you will, and when I got back to them and said, ‘Why’d you do it?’ they say, ‘It wasn’t a risk to us, it was the right thing to do.’”
Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran was just the latest in a long line of executives who saw Henry as the right man for the job, and the CEO is proving his bosses right.
Henry helped lead a slew of renovations and upgrades throughout Bridgestone Arena during the summer of 2015, including new seats in the lower bowl, concession stand and restroom transformations, and the addition of LED lighting in the building, all on the heels of the opening of the Lexus Lounge, Predators Team Store and other amenities over the past few seasons.
In addition to the visible additions to the Arena itself, Henry is also active with the Nashville Predators Foundation and played a large role in establishing the organization’s Hearts of Gold initiatives to provide Preds and Arena employees opportunities throughout the year to serve the Middle Tennessee community.
Plus, as Henry will readily admit, working for a professional sports team isn’t a bad gig in general.
“I love where we park [at Bridgestone Arena] because it forces you to come into the offices through the building,” Henry said. “I always step into the bowl, see what’s going on, what’s being repaired, what’s being filmed, what being loaded in and loaded out, how the ice is being maintained; it’s the pulse of what we are. If that doesn’t excite you, just start working on your resume.”
While Henry’s credentials may have changed over the years, it’s his family that has been by his side, not just accepting what he does for a living, but participating with him. Married with four children, Henry often has the most important people in his life right alongside for events at Bridgestone Arena or across the country. For him, there’s nothing better.
“Your family is your only inspiration that really matters, and I’m fortunate,” Henry said. “They embrace what I do and they love it. For me, when you are working those Saturdays and Sundays and evenings, it changes how good it is when you’re not choosing to be here with your family, but your family is choosing to be here with you.”
Henry wants the Bridgestone Arena experience to be the best in the industry, whether that’s for a Predators game, a concert or any other event. And while patrons may not remember exactly who scored every goal that night or what the setlist was for the show they attended, there are other memories Henry knows will last well after that ticket is scanned.
“Sports or concerts, they bond friends, they bond clients and they build memories, and that’s what we do for a living,” Henry said. “We get to provide that vehicle, that avenue. When you put on a concert or a game, you’re building memories forever.
“We have the opportunity to make those memories and I love it.”