SBJ/September 12-18, 2011/Facilities

Preds’ planned updates include upper-level gathering spot

Don Muret
The Nashville Predators have teamed with sports architect Populous to develop a master plan for renovating Bridgestone Arena.

The goal over the next several years is to refresh the 15-year-old facility to forge a stronger brand identity for the NHL club and create a better connection to Nashville’s downtown entertainment district, said Adam Stover, Populous’ lead designer for the project.

The first phase is building an area called the Fan Zone on the upper concourse in the arena’s south end, with a sit-down bar and 60 feet of continuous drink rail space at the edge of the seating bowl. It will be open by Sept. 24, the Preds’ first preseason home game.

The arena’s original design does not have open views from the three concourses, and the strategy behind the Fan Zone is to develop a place for fans sitting upstairs to hang out, mingle and watch the game apart from their seats. It falls in line with a trend at other major league arenas.

COURTESY OF NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Nashville’s Fan Zone required an opening to be cut in the south wall atop the upper deck.
To develop the Fan Zone, project officials carved an opening in the south wall spanning three seating sections to free up space to install the drink rails. The rails are made from the arena’s old dasherboards, said Sean Henry, the Predators’ president and chief operating officer.

With help from Thornton Tomasetti, the arena’s original structural engineer, Populous came up with a plan to cut the wall and install a curved beam that connects back to the structural columns on the concourse. The design eliminates the need to remove seats in the bowl to build additional support columns, Stover said.

“Our notion is that there is nowhere for anyone to stand in that area because the concourse is too narrow,” he said. “There is no prime destination point. By doing this, it also becomes a marketing tool, where people can tell their friends to ‘meet me at the pub.’”

In addition to the recycled dasherboards, an old penalty box is being converted to a new photo booth on the main concourse, Henry said.

On the premium side, Populous designed upgrades for the 72 suites with new finishes and restructured ceilings. After completing one sample suite to show their skybox patrons, the Predators have eight to 10 units scheduled for renovation, Henry said.

The remaining suite improvements will be scheduled as the cycle of renewals continues, he said.

Outside the facility, Populous is taking a hard look at how the Predators can liven up the plaza in front of the arena to create a pregame and postgame destination, with the possibility of attaching video boards to the exterior of the building to keep fans engaged before and after events.

The arena sits at the northeast end of the entertainment district on Broadway. At night, Broadway is one of the more vibrant streets in America with its mix of restaurants, bars and music venues, but the activity “just dies” at the arena’s front door, Stover said.

Long term, the Predators want to create a new entertainment space on the plaza with an opportunity to generate revenue with food and drink stands set up outside.

“We need to find a way to draw fans to the arena an hour and a half before the game with enough impactful experiences to keep them there after the game,” Stover said. “Right now, they have dinner somewhere else, come inside for the game and leave right away afterward.”

The renovation’s first phase, a $3 million investment, is being paid for by the team and Delaware North Sportservice, the arena’s general concessionaire. Levy Restaurants operates the suites.

CURE-ALL: Comcast-Spectacor officials signed Cure Insurance to a new naming-rights deal tied to some public food areas on the main concourse at Wells Fargo Center.

The Cure Insurance Club replaces the AT&T Pavilion, the old name of the space. The new deal’s total value is $875,000 over five years, according to a source close to the negotiations.

The Bud Light Zone, Campo’s Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks and Chickie’s & Pete’s, one of the largest arena bars in big league sports, make up the Cure club.

Cure already is a television sponsor of the 76ers’ halftime show, and has similar deals with the Eagles and Phillies.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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