There’s no slowing the renovations at Bridgestone Arena; even after an action packed last 18 months that included the development and opening of the Nissan SoBro entrance, Tavern ’96, Lexus Lounge, new Team Store and countless other projects.
In February, at the same time Bridgestone Arena was being named Pollstar’s Arena of the Year, the first time an arena outside of New York City or Los Angeles had won the award in 25 years, plans were underway for a summer of renovations that would leave the building looking better than ever. Not only are the changes and upgrades being done this summer happening to better the building itself, but also to make sure every fan who walks through Bridgestone Arena’s doors – whether that’s for a Nashville Predators hockey game, concert or show – has the best possible experience during their visit.
After the Preds season ended and the Country Music Television Awards were completed, the first of three major projects centered on replacing all of the seats in the Arena’s lower bowl got underway. The seats that, for the last 19 years, have been covered in fabric and had hard-to-find cup holders will now be covered in a durable and easily cleanable “pleather” material with closed-cell padding for added comfort, with cup holders on every single one of them.
“The seating was due to be changed out and it’s something that we’ve been looking at and preparing for a few years,” Bridgestone Arena Vice President of Facility Operations Tim Friedenberger said. “I went out and visited a lot of arenas, all over the country, and looked at systems they had. We were trying to find a system that worked well for us internally from an operations standpoint, as well as one that our fans would like.”
While it normally requires a building being closed for eight to 10 weeks to complete a seat installation of this magnitude, the Arena’s operations department worked with the seating experts and installation companies to come up with a plan that would ensure the building could remain open and continue hosting shows and events during the remodel.
The first stage, currently in progress, is replacing all of the seats in the lower bowl retractable seating areas (used to expand the floor space for bigger concerts) and the end zones before the building reopens to host Imagine Dragons on July 8.
Two other construction periods set for August and September will complete the lower bowl by the time the Predators open their preseason schedule on Sept. 20. The seats in Bridgestone Arena’s suite level and upper bowl will undergo a similar project next summer to complete the renovation.
“As our patrons walk into that lower bowl, they will feel like they’re walking into a new arena,” Friedenberger said. “Everything will have been touched in the lower bowl; every handrail is being stripped of its 17 years of paint back down to bare metal, sanded and re-painted and every [concourse entrance] will be repainted. New directional signage that is brand-centric to the Predators will be installed - we’ll have our Predators Gold, we’ll have the Guitar Pick, the Pred Head; we want to stay true to the team, so the section numbers will have the same font as the jerseys – down to the guitar strings.”
In the lower bowl remodel, it’s more than just what looks good - the organization also took fan safety into account.
“We want to make sure our fans are safe while they’re in our building,” Friedenberger said. “The treatments we are doing on the stairs with the anti-slip and the glow-in-the-dark strips, it will help our patrons be able to navigate our steps much safer.”
Outside of the lower bowl, fans will see a few more new items when the calendar turns to the 2015-16 season that impact fans in every area of the building, especially through improved security at building entrances. New drink rails and expanded seating areas can be seen in the Lexus Lounge and Suite Levels. The entire All-American Food Court area at Section 102, along with several other Arena concession stands, will be completely remodeled to better serve the wants and needs of guests.
Throughout the building, 16 total restrooms (eight men’s and eight women’s) are being completely upgraded – with renovations including new stalls, toilets, sinks, faucets, countertops and more. The new faucets and soap and paper towel dispensers will now be completely touchless – streamlining the cleanliness of the facilities.
“This project will impact every one of our guests,” Friedenberger said. “For fans, to be able to say, ‘I was there on Opening Night when it was finished; I was one of the first ones to see it, one of the first ones to sit in those seats,’ I think would be pretty cool.”