Bunker suites a hot commodity at Bridgestone
The Nashville Predators are building their first two bunker suites at Bridgestone Arena, part of a quick turnaround in facility upgrades following their deep postseason run.
The Predators, capitalizing on their first Stanley Cup Final appearance, identified event-level space in the arena’s north end that could be redeveloped into high-end hospitality space. The new bunkers, which are tucked underneath the stands and include seats in the first few rows of the lower bowl, replace former storage and pantry areas.
The team sold each bunker suite for $700,000 a year, tied to seven-year terms. The all-inclusive package covers 20 tickets for most events plus food and drink, including beer, wine and hard liquor. Private servers and preferred parking on the loading dock are other amenities.
|The suites include food and drink and lower-bowl seats.
Courtesy of: NASHVILLE PREDATORS
“We had four meetings and sold them both that day without a rendering,” said Sean Henry, the Predators’ chief executive officer, president and alternate governor.
The team invested about $800,000 for the project, designed by Populous, the building’s original architect. The plumbing was already in place for both bunkers, which helped reduce project costs slightly, Henry said.
The bunker suites come online after the Predators formed a group hospitality space mid-level in the arena during the 2012-13 NHL lockout. At that time, the team combined two suites into one larger room supporting 85 seats and sold season-ticket plans for three- and five-year contracts.
Despite the lockout, the group space sold out, resulting in the Predators taking a closer look at other areas for premium retrofits.
“You drink a lot of Pepto when you launch a concept like this, but it worked really well and that’s what gave us the confidence to build these bunkers,” Henry said.
Apart from the event-level retrofit, the Predators are making some dramatic changes to parts of the upper deck, tearing down walls separating the seating bowl from the concourse and installing new bars, grab-and-go concessions, and drink rails with views to the game.
During initial construction, team officials discovered empty space overhead after removing one section of ceiling, resulting in a last-minute plan to install a “sky bar” style deck for fans sitting at the highest level.
“We didn’t know we were doing that until a few weeks ago,” he said. “It’s one of the coolest things we’re doing and it was by accident … we didn’t realize how unencumbered it was.”
All told, the Predators have spent about $80 million on facility improvements since 2010, the year massive flooding hit Nashville and left 3 feet of water at event level inside the arena.
Next year, the team plans to renovate its practice facility, situated about 3 miles from the arena near Vanderbilt University, at a cost between $6 million and $7 million.
Last week, construction started on upgrading the Predators’ locker room. Henry said the team plans to package naming rights to the locker room with the practice facility and a large backstage space used for rehearsal by some of the city’s biggest country music acts.