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Volume 20 No. 41


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.

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 Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

Philadelphia sports fans will have more ways to complete their wardrobes in 2011.

Comcast-Spectacor has begun building a 4,800-square-foot Reebok-branded retail store in the Wells Fargo Center that will carry athletic wear and lifestyle apparel for the Flyers and the 76ers. The organization also is repurposing an existing 1,200-square-foot fan gear shop in the arena to become an official Flyers store for the apparel manufacturer ’47 Brand.

The Reebok store, which was formerly an outdoor sidewalk space, will open for limited business in late November. Sources familiar with the team valued the store’s construction at $2 million. The ’47 Brand store will be completed by the start of the NHL season.

During 76ers games, the Reebok store will convert its product offerings to showcase team apparel by Adidas, which is the NBA’s apparel partner and is a sister brand to Reebok. The Reebok store will be called the “Center Ice Fan Store Powered by Reebok” during Flyers games and the “On Court Fan Store Powered by Reebok” during 76ers games, and will be completed in January.

Sean Hennessy, general manager at Aramark, which oversees the stores at the Wells Fargo Center, Consol Energy Center and Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., said in-arena apparel sales between both the Flyers and 76ers are in the millions, and said he expects the new stores to boost sales by 25 percent.

“We were seeing that people are moving away from belly-up-type merchandise stands and wanting to go into stores and touch and feel the product,” said Peter Luukko, president and CEO of Comcast-Spectacor. “As this becomes more about fashion than just supporting your team, we wanted to have more [clothing] options for fans.”

Both stores came about because of separate, multiyear retail marketing partnerships that Comcast-Spectacor signed with Reebok and Twins Enterprise, which owns ’47 Brand. The NHL has allowed teams to sign local licensing deals since 1990, and the deals allow the manufacturers to sell at team-owned stores located within a team’s market. Sources familiar with the deals valued them in the mid-six-figure range.

Reebok, which is the league’s official apparel partner, can license products for all 30 clubs. Keith Leach, director of merchandising for Reebok, said the Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and the new Winnipeg Jets are the only three teams to have separate team deals to build the in-arena stores.

“The Penguins are the type of model relationship we created last year,” Leach said. “It was a new arena, they had the Winter Classic, and it made a lot of sense. After the Flyers played [the Penguins] they came to us and said they’d be interested in doing something similar.”

Reebok opened its store in Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center in 2010, and the team has since signed local retail deals with apparel manufacturers ’47 Brand, G-III and Crons. Leach said Reebok is negotiating local deals with additional NHL teams but declined to say which.

“[The stores] allow us to constantly freshen our product line,” Leach said. “We can bring in graphics that are meaningful, like if it’s the playoffs or if a player is hot. We can work with the teams to customize.”

The Reebok store will carry a wide range of apparel, from jackets, polo shirts and special team-specific T-shirts and jerseys, to CCM Hockey apparel and novelty items made by league licensee Mitchell & Ness. The ’47 Brand store will carry jackets, sweatshirts, long- and short-sleeve T-shirts and hats.

“Hockey is a sport that becomes an overall lifestyle for people that play it,” Aramark’s Hennessy said. “I think people are looking for clothing that represents that lifestyle.”