More than 15 million tourists visited the city of Nashville in 2018, and I'd be willing to bet the majority of them stepped foot on Broadway for a moment or two. Before Bridgestone Arena opened almost 25 years ago, that number would've been difficult to fathom.
Broadway was not the place to be at that time. It has undergone a significant transformation in the span of 25 years. In 1993, construction began on a building at the corner of Fifth and Broadway that would change downtown Nashville forever.
Not only has Bridgestone Arena become home to the Nashville Predators-a team that is now part of the fabric of this town just as much as music-but it also brings in acts the city never could have hosted without a facility like it.
If you think back 25 years ago, we did not have an appropriate venue for a city our size to host concerts. Once the arena opened in 1996, it brought talent to Nashville-the lead acts and everybody associated with those tours.
We are a talent-driven market, and having those people experience Nashville made a big difference. Someone that came here to perform, may then come back to record, or they may come back to find people to help them on a session or different project. We just didn't have that exposure before, and that's an underappreciated aspect of the arena.
When former Mayor Karl Dean first came into office in 2007, there was one key point of the arena lease amendment put in place, and that was incredibly important. The structure of the lease before that had been almost punitive. If you brought in an act, all the risk was yours. And even if you made money, you didn't get to keep it.
Changing that component increased the number of events coming to the building. This year, the area will host around 150 events. Twelve years ago, it hosted less than 100 events annually. And 25 years ago, it was inconsequential. 150 world-class events in a year is significant to the city.
Bridgestone Arena's location in downtown is also unmatched, as it is seamlessly integrated into the downtown market. It's close to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Music City Center, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Walk of Fame Park, Bridgestone's North America headquarters, and the historic Ryman Auditorium.
Furthermore, with the exception of the Ryman and the First Baptist Church, none of those buildings were there before the arena came. And anytime someone visits any of these locations, the arena is in their sightline.
Bridgestone Arena is critical to the overall economy of the city, not solely downtown. It's an economic driver downtown, attracting employees from all over the Nashville region and visitors from all over the country, and even the world.
The new proposal of a 30-year lease is a win for everyone involved. It removes any uncertainty about where concerts are going to be and where the Predators are going to play for the next generation. Removing that uncertainty is paramount. It elevates the confidence of the neighborhood and downtown knowing there's a new agreement in place.
The visionaries who began to make this happen 25 years ago had high hopes, but I'm not sure any of them could have envisioned what we have today. So, here's to the next 25 years-and then some-of Predators hockey and world-class events at Bridgestone Arena.
The Nashville skyline may be ever-changing-and luckily-the arena won't be going anywhere anytime soon.