Perhaps Olympic Gold figure skater Scott Hamilton said it best when he stepped to the podium during Ford Ice Center’s grand opening festivities.
“Is this awesome or what!?”
That seemed to be the overwhelming response on Friday afternoon as the Nashville Predators cut the ribbon on their new facility in Antioch, Tennessee. Among those on hand for the ceremony included Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Predators defenseman Seth Jones and country music legend Vince Gill.
Once the ribbon fell, hundreds poured into the rinks and back out again, taking in public skating activities, as well as a Party in the Park, hosted in the five-acre park adjacent to the building, complete with live music, food trucks and a slew of other activities. And this was just the start.
“Your passion and support provide us the confidence to allow us to introduce even more people to the great game you already know and love,” Predators CEO Jeff Cogen said to the fans of Smashville.
Cogen stated how proud the Preds are to be able to partner alongside “‘two guys with gold,”’ in Hamilton’s Olympic Gold and Gill’s Gold records.
In addition to Hamilton’s overseeing of the newly- created Scott Hamilton Skating Academy, which will provide patrons of all ages and abilities the chance to learn to skate at Ford Ice Center, the Predators also announced a partnership will Gill to grow the game of hockey.
The details are still being finalized, but Gill’s commitment will allow a scholarship program to be funded at Ford Ice Center, providing kids the chance to play hockey while helping to eliminate obstacles, such as ice time and equipment costs.
For Hamilton, a long-time Predators season-ticket holder, the potential of Ford Ice Center is limitless and he’s got plenty of visions in mind.
“When we all learned how to skate, our parents had to threaten us to get us off the ice because we couldn’t get enough,” Hamilton said. “I want that to be what this rink is all about.”
In less than a year, Ford Ice Center went from a pile of dirt in an empty parking lot, to an LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Certified building. And while the work may be done on the outside, it’s only beginning on the ice.
“From a Predators perspective, this is going to be a brick and mortar fan factory,” Cogen said. “We put sticks in kids’ hands and skates on kids’ feet and we’ll grow their passion for our game. This will continue to make middle Tennessee an up and coming hockey market, and will be a very important ingredient in the mix to bring that Cup down Broadway.”
Now that Ford Ice Center is off and running, that passion will continue to expand. Perhaps a future Predator will get his start on one of the ice sheets in Antioch.
Wouldn’t that be awesome?