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My Story: How the Preds and Bridgestone Arena Transformed Nashville

President and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation Butch Spyridon Tells How Music City Thrives with Sport

by Butch Spyridon @visitmusiccity / President and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation

It's simple, really. The city of Nashville wouldn't be the city it is today without the decision to build Bridgestone Arena.

The effort to make that building function, and function prosperously - from concerts to conventions to high-profile hockey - these are all activities that put Nashville out around the world. All of it is right in step with everything that's happened in Nashville.

I always said when we were building the arena, everybody wanted to focus on the "build it and they will come" angle. But from my standpoint, we had always talked about conventions that we were losing, and we talked about local artists that didn't have a place to play, so we made it about Nashville.

We thought the arena certainly ought to have locker rooms, it ought to be big enough that if we ever had the chance for a major league team, we would be ready. But I never saw it as a "build it and they will come." I saw it as a huge void in this city, and it has, without question, outreached any expectations in terms of how it's ranked nationally or globally. Bridgestone Arena has just succeeded - and exceeded - expectations.

When the Predators arrived in 1998, you can imagine hockey in the south was not only a head-scratcher for probably the rest of the world, but for Nashville, too.

We spent a lot of time working with the Preds to sell the concept to the city, and I have to acknowledge the first president of the Predators, Jack Diller, who was instrumental from the start. Jack is probably the most unsung hero of getting things off the ground and getting the franchise to a point where everybody was willing to fight for it all those years later when a move from Nashville became a real possibility.

We knew it was certainly a good thing to keep the Predators in Nashville, but I'm not sure any of us could have foreseen what was coming.

The 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend and the 2017 Stanley Cup Final were seminal moments for the Predators against the landscape of the NHL. In fact, I would put the All-Star Game and the Stanley Cup Playoff watch parties in a category all by themselves. Those events allowed us to show the rest of the hockey world - and the rest of the world in general - that we were not just capable of hosting things of this magnitude, but we could do it really well.

There really weren't public watch parties in any sport to speak of before what happened in Nashville, and the NHL All-Star Game was not a huge public event before it came to Nashville. We earned our stripes with both. We forever changed those negative perceptions about hockey in Nashville or hockey in the south.

I sent a picture to the senior VP of events of the NFL the morning after Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. It was a picture from the rooftop of Tootsie's looking down at Fifth Avenue and Broadway, and I essentially said, "We're rehearsing for you." Those playoff watch parties demonstrated, at a really high level, the city's cooperative spirit, the city's capabilities and what a high level to which we can take an event. Less than two years after that photo was taken, we hosted the NFL Draft - right there on Broadway.

And you know what? That's a tribute to the Predators' fans. The city of Nashville and Preds fans should take a lot of pride at what was going on in St. Louis recently during their Stanley Cup Final watch parties, or what was going on in Toronto with the NBA Finals. Those massive crowds all coming together as one in their cities? That arguably started right here in Nashville with our fans.

When I see photos like the one from the Stanley Cup Final, well, I'm not sure I can put it into words. The hair on the back of my neck stands up, and maybe my eyes well up a bit, but I don't let that bubble up any further.

It's just an unbelievable moment when you step back and look at what we can do as a city with our fans, our staff here, the Preds staff or CMA staff - whoever we're working with. The ability to come together and execute high-quality, high-safety events with record crowds, it's almost mind boggling. It's a source of pride that you really can't put into words, because people wouldn't believe that it's taking place right here in Nashville.

A stadium or arena usually has around a 30-year lifespan, so the strategic decision to put it in the heart of the city was critical to all of our other success. Now, to see this new lease proposal happen, and to know that the prime location for the arena or the value for the city will not change for the next 30 years, it's brilliant. That's exactly what needed to happen.

Our city has never been in a better spot, and the building at 501 Broadway, along with the team that calls it home, have plenty to do with it.

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