Mayor Karl Dean's mid-year capital budget includes $7 million for improvements to Bridgestone Arena's south entrance, a move that will spark larger changes at Fifth and Broadway.
With the Music City Center set to come online later this year, there has been an expectation the arena would see upgrades to its sides facing Demonbreun Street and Fifth Avenue to create a campus where Nashville's big-ticket downtown facilities meet. According to Nashville Predators' COO and President Sean Henry, the city's investment will be used to create a more dynamic entrance on the MCC-facing side of the arena.
While plans aren't yet finalized, Henry said arena patrons can expect a plaza similar — albeit smaller — than what is on the "front porch" of Bridgestone facing Broadway.
The revamping of the Demonbreun entrance — which these days only handles "5 or 6 percent" of arena visitors — is needed, Henry said, because more foot traffic will be directed to the south side of the building once the convention center and its 1,800 parking spaces come online.
The city's $7 million investment is wholly on the exterior of the arena, but the improvements are the first step in "reprogramming" a largely underutilized section of the building. Henry said "light retail" — either in merchandising or food and beverage — will come to Demonbreun, plus some larger retail or restaurant options likely on Fifth Avenue, creating a connection between the MCC campus and the existing entertainment district on Broadway.
"We want to electrify that as a connector to Broadway," he said. "Right now it's a separator."
The plans will not result in the removal or abandonment of the arena's rehearsal space at Fifth and Demonbreun, which Henry said is a key, if largely hidden, part of the recent success of drawing concerts to Nashville.
"People use it to build shows and rehearse, and it comes back with them doing a date at our building," he said.
The mayor's plan also relocates Metro Police's Central Precinct from the arena to a new building on Korean Veterans' Boulevard. Henry said that will also open up space for more revenue-generating options inside the arena.
Henry said arena officials are working to line up private investment for the newly opened space, with broader details to be available in the next six weeks.
"This is the ultimate public/private partnership. The city will invest in the outside and we'll invest in the guts, if you will," he said.