In a couple days’ time, the ice at Bridgestone Arena will be stripped of the NHL All-Star logo, the outdoor concert stage will be taken down and the unofficial second half of the NHL season will commence.
The 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend festivities won’t last forever, but the impact of the League bringing its signature celebration to Nashville will.
On Friday morning, with the help of the Nashville Predators, the NHL and League partner McDonald’s, the NHL All-Star Legacy Project was unveiled, giving 30,000 square feet of newly renovated space to Nashville Inner City Ministry, as part of the 2016 NHL All-Star Legacy Family Life Center.
“We always like to leave something behind,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “While it’s great to come here for the weekend and celebrate and enjoy the hospitality, we want the community to know that we really enjoyed our time here, respected our time here and wanted to leave something behind that would make a difference.”
One-third of the 90,000-square foot facility in Nashville was renovated to better service the community, including the donation of new furniture, technology and interior design featuring NHL All-Star and Predators branding. In total, eight rooms were transformed, including the pantry, with shelves filled thanks to assistance from McDonald’s, as well as Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, plus two classrooms complete with new furniture, smartboards and storage areas.
The space also houses a fully furnished nursery, contributed by the wives and girlfriends of the Nashville Predators in partnership with the Teammates for Kids Foundation. NHL partner Franklin Sports also donated sets of street hockey equipment.
“There’s such a positive energy in the city of Nashville, and to see it here at Nashville Inner City Ministry, the positive images all around the walls, the messages they’ve put all throughout the buildings, it’s so wonderful to walk through,” Kristen Laviolette, board member of the Nashville Predators Foundation and wife of Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s a happy place and we hope that just sheds right through the families that will be coming here for years and years to come and that it will spread wonderful things in the city of Nashville.”
Preds defenseman Roman Josi, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin were also on hand to help dedicate the facility, which will help to serve more than 4,000 youth and their families each year in the Nashville area.
“It’s awesome to do something for the community and actually see the impact after it’s complete,” Josi said. “It shows how well represented the Predators are in the community and how much the Preds do in the community. The All-Star Game [Legacy Project] is a great thing to show the hockey world and get more advantages for the community.”
Nashville Inner City Ministry Founder and President Lytle Thomas was overwhelmed with emotion upon seeing the children of his organization walk into the building for the first time and begin to utilize the amenities built just for them. Thomas knows a facility like this will only help his ministry to continue to improve the welfare of children throughout the city to provide them with a better future.
“You’ve worked so long, fought so many battles to get to this point and you see them walk through this reality – we’re here,” Thomas said. “We’re going to be able to work with some children, and we’re going to be able to help some children.”
Three months ago, the space contained nothing but some cinder blocks, outlining a vision of what was to come. That vision became real with assistance from the Preds and the NHL, bringing smiles to each and every soul who set foot into a building that will be a symbol of hope for years to come.
“To see it today, it’s overwhelming and we’re so proud to be a part of every inch of this building right now,” Laviolette said. “To be in the community with the wives and girlfriends, to be able to come in and do a big project like this of this magnitude, it’s second to none.”