I've been in the same seats since Day One: Section 310, right on the blueline, high above the ice at Bridgestone Arena.
It's a magnificent view, and I've seen it all over the years. There has been triumph and heartbreak, the highs and lows that come with being a fan. That's part of the deal, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
When the Predators came to Nashville in 1998, there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I wanted to be in the building from the very beginning. My son and I had already started going to minor-league games in town to see the Nashville Stars or Nashville Knights play, so when the NHL chose this as their new home, I knew we would be there.
Not only had I become a hockey fan from attending those games, but I figured if we're going to have a team here, then we have to support it. I love sports, but I also felt some civic responsibility. For the Preds to be the first professional team in the four big sports, and have the word "Nashville" in front of it, I thought, "Man that's pretty cool. We've got to be part of this."
All these years later, I'm still there in 310. I still chat with Voice of the Predators Pete Weber during the intermissions like I always have, and I catch up with my friends at least 41 times a year, too. Right there in our section, two of our good friends, Jimmy and Susan Santry, have been there with us since the beginning. Now, we have a group of eight of us, and they're not people I would've known in any other way. Sports creates friends and fans for you, and you experience the journey together. It's something that doesn't get talked about as much, but it's a really special part of being a Predators fan and attending the games.
I've been to games in other NHL arenas, and what we have here in Nashville is special. I hear that from other people, too. I've talked with folks who have moved here from different cities and have cheered on their team back home, and they always remark there's something different here. The energy in the building, it's just infectious. People become obsessed with this team.
Every game night, I don't have far to go to get to my seats. In my role as president and CEO of the Music City Center, we're neighbors with the arena, right in the heartbeat of Nashville. And having Bridgestone Arena right across the street is a huge selling point for us when we're talking to customers.
We sell the energy level and excitement of downtown, and you can't say that without talking about the arena. When somebody's booking a convention in the year 2028, I can't guarantee the Predators are going to be playing at home that night, but what I can tell them is that we have one of the five busiest arenas in the country, so while your attendees are here, there's going to be a hockey game, a family event or some kind of concert going on.
When you talk about convention attendees in urban areas, the one thing none of them like is going to an urban area where it's really quiet at night. They want activity. They don't like booking conventions in urban settings where it's a corporate downtown and they roll the streets up at night. To us, the arena is a huge catalyst for helping us have activity in the streets. We always look at the arena as a great neighbor and partner.
Let me leave you with this. I've witnessed plenty of incredible moments over the years, but if I had to choose one, it would probably be sweeping the Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2017. I have a few friends and clients in Chicago, and to shut them up just a little bit, that was about as good as it gets.
Fine, one more that sticks out to me was the first time I took my son to see the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim play in Nashville. He knew the Mighty Ducks from watching the movies, and that was a special family moment, and just a lot of fun to make that connection. My son is grown now, but I'll never forget the time we spent going to games together growing up. Those nights are some of my most cherished memories.
There's a lot of people in Nashville who still haven't been to a game, and to them I'd say, "What are you waiting for?" It's exciting on television, but there's nothing like seeing a game in person. I was hooked, and I bet any first-timer would be, too.
I can't imagine Nashville without the Predators, and I can't imagine the Predators without Nashville. I think they just go hand in glove.
As a fan, I feel like we've built something here, and that's the difference to me is the word "we" is in there. As fans, we feel like we've helped build that, and that's part of what makes being a Predators fan so special. It's not just the team - we're all a part of it.
Even now, you can almost daydream and see the Cup-winning parade down Broadway. During a Smashville standing ovation, I can't help but think if I yell a little bit louder, maybe that's part of what helps them bring that parade down Broadway at some point.
There will come a day when I'm no longer able to climb the steps to Section 310, but until then, I'll be there with 17,000 of my closest friends. I wouldn't have it any other way.