Hockey is working in Nashville.
The Nashville Predators proved that on the ice this past season, and the club’s success on the other side of the glass over the 2014-15 campaign only helps to further emphasize that truth.
“Any questions that anyone ever had about, ‘Is [Nashville] a hockey market, is it going to work?’ Some of the questions we heard too often not that many years ago, never once percolated this year,” Predators President and COO Sean Henry said.
Henry, along with Predators CEO Jeff Cogen, recently discussed the organization’s off-ice achievements over the season, of which there were plenty.
Perhaps most noticeable, the Preds sold out a franchise record 30 of 41 home games and played in front of 691,028 fans at Bridgestone Arena throughout the regular season, also a club record. The Predators hosted their largest crowd in team history when 17,401 were in attendance to see Nashville defeat St. Louis on Dec. 30, 2014.
“Our job from Day One was to grow a fan base,” Cogen said. “If you can get past the numbers and say, ‘Are we growing fans? Is this sustainable?’ And I think [2014-15] answered that question definitively.”
The aggressive fiscal budget put forth by the team to start the year has been beaten by 15 percent. The new Predators Team Store, which opened in the fall stocked full of new merchandise, beat its projected number by 20 percent and included a 130 percent increase in year-over-year sales. Broadcast ratings, website traffic and youth hockey registrations in Middle Tennessee are all up significantly. Plus, and perhaps most importantly of all, the future of the on-ice product leaves plenty of excitement to be had.
“[General Manager] David Poile makes us look like geniuses; [Head Coach] Peter Laviolette makes us look like geniuses,” Cogen said. “We built a system and we had a vision. When we had some tailwind, it would throw the switch and all the lights would go on and that’s what happened this year. Now looking forward, it’s our responsibility to take that relative success and build upon it.
“We focused on filling the building years ago, and I think we had success in that regard this season; we can check that box. It had a ripple effect, almost a tidal wave effect across almost all facets of our business that you don’t necessarily see.”
Now that the offseason has arrived, the organization is set to revamp once again. That includes the installation of brand new seats in the building, starting with the lower bowl this summer. It also means the planning of new promotions and perks for fans next season.
Henry alluded to the belief that the Preds are potentially set to host more Saturday night games in 2015-16 than they ever have before, and that could bring about a slew of incentives for those who attend Saturday nights in Smashville. Plus, there’s that whole All-Star Weekend coming in January.
“The one thing that [Predators Owner] Tom Cigarran laid out, when he became Chairman, it was very simple what our goal was: to be the best sports and entertainment venue in the country built around a Stanley Cup team, and that’s what we’re going to chase every year,” Henry said. “You’re never going to achieve that every year, but it’s not going to change how we try to build toward chasing that virtually every year.”