Bridgestone Arena will soon have its first ever dedicated capital-improvement fund.
The Metropolitan Sports Authority gave unanimous approval Friday to a $10 million line of credit dedicated to upgrading the facility. The fund will be supported by a $2 fee added to all tickets, previously approved as part of the Nashville Predators' lease renegotiation with Metro this summer.
Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said the line of credit, shared by First Tennessee and SunTrust, will, if given final approval by the Metro Council, provide $7.5 million this year before jumping to its full value in subsequent years. Only $3 million will be made immediately available, though, as a consequence of the ongoing National Hockey League lockout. Of that initial $3 million, $2.5 million will be paid to the Predators to reimburse the team for improvements already made, including the "Fan Zone" on the 300 level and the new 501 Club on the suite level.
Representatives of sports architecture giant Populous presented potential future improvements at Fifth and Broad. Some of the ideas — "what ifs" was the preferred term — included a screen on the underside of the arena roof overhang on the plaza that would allow people without tickets to watch events going on inside, more vibrant entrances from Broadway and Demonbreun, rebranded concession stands, and sports bar-style lounges on the concourse to replicate the environment of Lower Broadway.
Any improvements will have to be approved by the Sports Authority as part of the annual budget process.
The continuing NHL work stoppage did hang over the meeting. Predators President and COO Sean Henry reiterated that "there will be no layoffs, there will be no furloughs, there will be no paycuts" at the arena even if the entire season is lost as it was in 2004-05.
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