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My Story: Never Underestimate Nashville

Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Ralph Schulz Tells His Story of the Preds in Music City

by Ralph Schulz @PredsNHL / President & CEO, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

Nashville is often underestimated.

Tell Nashville it's in the minor leagues and Nashville will earn a spot in the major leagues. Nashville has always had a habit of exceeding expectations.

The Predators are just a constant projection of that attitude.

But Nashville has not always been this shining aspirational example of what success looks like. Not long ago, a trade to the Preds which meant living in Nashville was not at the top of a player's list. Today, Nashville is a place where new players want to call home. Thanks to the Preds' organization, city leaders, a growing creative scene, successful economic development, and skyrocketing growth, we are a city where thousands choose to visit and live every year. Nashville has become a great place to spend a portion of your life, maybe the rest of your life.

The Predators are a key part of Nashville's success story. The Preds add to the cultural excitement of living in this great city.

In the history of the Predators and Nashville, you have Phil Bredesen, who made the decision to build an arena without having a prospective tenant. Then Craig Leipold decided to bring a team to Nashville. Tom Cigarran created an atmosphere around the Preds that is top-notch, first-class, and world-class. Joining this list is Herb Fritch, who is the biggest risk taker of them all. Without these "players" and the Preds family, we would not have the value that we have in the Preds franchise for Nashville.

Nashville is a can-do city and the Preds are a can-do organization. The Predators project a spirit, an ethos of can-do out into this city. It's almost like the two are indistinguishable because they both represent the spirit of Nashville.

When the Preds decided to come here in the late 90s, it exhibited both the public and private partnership that exists in this city. It put Nashville on a different list of consideration and a great example of this is the NHL All-Star Game in 2016, a weekend largely considered as one of the best the League has ever hosted. However, at one point in time, the League said the reason it would not bring the All-Star Game to Nashville was because we didn't have adequate facilities to host this event. Although, the city didn't build the Music City Center just to have the All-Star Game; but when the League makes that kind of a statement, it adds weight to the fact that we needed that kind of a facility in Nashville. It's a great illustration of public-private partnership.

So, a city commits to build a convention center. A League commits to bring in an All-Star Game. The combined value of these partners generates tremendous value. And the fact that the All-Star Game occurred here catapulted us once again into a different league. It took both the city and the Preds to do their part to make that happen and both delivered.

This team not only delivers on the ice, they make huge investments in this community through the Nashville Predators Foundation. When a team makes this kind of investment in the community, then the community has an allegiance to you that's much deeper than just the performance of the team on the ice. It says, "As a sports organization, we're an integral part of Nashville. We live here. We work here. We invest here. And making Nashville a better place is as big of a part of who we are as having a great team is."

The Nashville Predators Foundation is an awesome institution and it builds an allegiance to the Predators that only engagement in the community can build. Yes, there's the team performance; yes, there's the winning; yes, there's the entertainment experience that occurs inside the arena and outside the arena; but the Foundation reaches deep into the community.

The ownership and management deserve an awful lot of credit too. They make it a priority to say, "If we're going to be the best hockey organization in the country and we're going to be the best arena in the country; we're also going to be the best community participant." The Predators are embedded in Nashville. Even if you're not in the seats every night, you're a part of the Predators team.

I want to end with this, because I really believe it in my heart. The fans who attend games, wear the logo and support this team should feel proud because the Preds are still here thanks to them.

When the team was close to moving away in 2007, many leaders helped to organize a rally. But the ownership group that eventually stepped up to save the team was still forming at that time. On the day of the rally, thousands of fans showed up to voice their support for this team and this rally really tipped the scales to keep this team in Nashville.

It wasn't because of the people we had on stage; it was because of the people who were in the crowd. It was a monumental moment for the franchise and it wouldn't have been possible without the dedication of those who mattered most in the equation.

So, once again, never underestimate the city of Nashville - or the people who call it home.

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