With the Predators rookies opening camp today, the full team reporting next week and the preseason opener 17 days away, we checked in with Predators president Sean Henry and did a walkthrough of the on-going upgrades at Bridgestone Arena.
Henry likes to point out that, ideally, renovations never stop at an entertainment venue; however, the current round of upgrades is the largest capital improvement project in the arena's history.
It primarily focuses on the Demonbreun side of the building — a long-forgotten back entrance that needed to be "activated" with the opening of the Music City Center across the street. (See rendering below.)
When the puck drops for the regular season opener Oct. 8 against Minnesota, the first big upgrades will have made their debut. Henry said the new marquee at Fifth & Broadway — which will include a double-sided video board, replacing the static sign and LED display on the current marquee — will be ready in early October, along with two new video components on the arena's Demonbreun side. The largely empty exterior wall of the rehearsal space at Demonbreun and Fifth has long featured over-sized player photos. Those photos will be replaed by 15-by-28-foot video board. Along the long side of the arena will be a rolling scroll of upcoming events at Bridgestone.
The overhaul of the ingress and egress of the rear plaza — which will include a revamped south entrance, plus expanded public gathering space, band stage and other branded spaces — should be complete by mid-November.
Henry expects all actual construction to be done by the "end of fall 2013."
The final pieces of the puzzle — which are expected to include a new pub-style, open-to-the-rear-plaza bar the lower level of what is now the parking garage and expanded retail space along Fifth — should be complete by March.
Despite serving what The Score's Jo Innes called the NHL's best hot dog, Bridgestone Arena is developing a reputation for serving arena food that is lauded for its local touches (like chicken-and-waffles and well-executed, if PG-13, hot chicken) and their simple fun (bacon on a stick!).
This season the chefs will roll out two new signature dishes: country-fried steak-on-a-stick and French-Canadian favorite poutine.
Poutine is typically served topped with brown gravy, but this is Nashville. The Bridgestone Arena version will feature sausage gravy. While we're told pimento cheese was briefly considered, ultimately the chefs stuck with what works and will use the traditional cheese curds.