Itinerant Fan

Bridgestone Arena

Of all the cities across the United States and Canada that can be considered hockey hotbeds, Nashville might be the most unlikely. In fact, in NHL circles Nashville sometimes gets lumped in with other markets such as South Florida and Phoenix in the cities-that-don’t-deserve-a-team-because-the-climate-is-too-warm discussion. All it takes, though, is one hockey-themed visit to Music City to realize how unfair that is.

Make no mistake, Nashville loves its Predators, and the franchise reciprocates by lovingly calling its home city “Smashville.” The home fans have had a strong, contending team to watch in recent years, and though it has yet to get past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the potential of the team helps keep the fans coming. It certainly helps that the Preds’ home building, Bridgestone Arena, ranks up there as one of the NHL’s nicest, functional both for its main tenant and many other events (as we soon shall explore). And it’s got a prime location on Broadway in downtown Nashville, just steps from the famed Ryman Auditorium and other sights worth seeing in the city.

I made an early-season visit to Smashville, er, Nashville to see the Preds for myself and to check out just how well honky tonk and hockey can coexist.

  •   The Approach

    If you’ve never been to Nashville, you might be surprised to find it’s got a thriving, bustling downtown that isn’t just filled with country music clubs. There are office buildings, restaurants and hotels all around, all within walking distance of Bridgestone Arena, which is centrally located. Oh, and there’s the Tennessee state capitol and other state government buildings just a few blocks away.

    Public transportation is largely an afterthought in Nashville so if you’re not already staying in the downtown area, you’re likely driving. Downtown is pretty easy to access via Interstates 40, 24 and 65, all of which lead into Nashville, and from there the key is to get as close as possible to Fifth Avenue and Broadway, where the arena is located. Of course, parking is more expensive the closer you get to the arena on game nights — and passes and/or advance purchase is needed to get to the most prime spots. There are plenty of other places for you to park, though, if you do some research, and in Nashville there’s a site dedicated to downtown parking that you can use to scout your trip. (I had decided beforehand, thanks to this site, to park for $8 at the nearby Library Garage, but alas, it was full when I arrived. I ended up parking in a structure several blocks farther away and wound up paying $20 for my trouble. Boo.)

    By the way, if you do park several blocks away from the arena, get ready for a rather strenuous walk — the downtown area is surprisingly hilly. Particularly if you’re coming from the north, as I was; it’s largely downhill heading to the arena but that means you have to walk up a few inclines on the way back.

  •   The Build-Up

    Downtown Nashville is a vibrant area with lots to see and do, and that only becomes more true on Preds game nights. Bars and restaurants are everywhere in the surrounding area. But if it’s your first time visiting Nashville, you could do a lot worse than taking a stroll down Broadway just east of the arena, which in the evenings is lit up with neon from all the honky-tonk bars that line the streets. Whether you’re a country music fan or not, it’s a cool experience to hear the live music coming from so many establishments, and what’s even cooler is to see so many people dressed up in cowboy hats and boots out to have a good time, intermingling with hockey fans in jerseys on their way to the game.

    Again, even if you don’t care much for country music, might as well at least stop for a second and take a picture of some of the more iconic sites in country music lore. The Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry, and the Johnny Cash Museum are both just a block or two from the arena.

    There are also opportunities to try some of Nashville’s cuisine within steps of the arena. Check out Puckett’s for down-home Southern cooking and occasional live music, or 400 Degrees for a Nashville specialty, hot chicken.

  •   The Ambiance

    Once inside, you’ll see that Bridgestone Arena is like most of the NHL’s venues — modern, clean, spacious. The entrance at the corner of Fifth and Broadway (see photo at top of this post) is the “main” one and thus the one that the majority of fans use to go in. When you pass through the turnstiles, you’re already on the main concourse and can begin exploring.

    It’s also a good starting point for checking out the food options — the aforementioned hot chicken is available in the form of coated chicken tenders, and BBQ is also plentiful. For my part, I went with a pimento cheese hot dog that turned out pretty disappointing; it was just a regular ol’ hot dog with a big, cold glob of cheese plopped on top of it.

    One of the most distinctive architectural features of the arena is the presence of two large support columns that jut out from the lower bowl, creating dividers in the upper deck. It seems like a curious setup for a hockey venue, and it is, but as it turns out, it serves another purpose. The arena is used a lot for concerts (as are most major arenas, but particularly one in the heart of Nashville), and the columns, combined with an increasing number of rows in the upper bowl at the other end of the arena, give it more of an amphitheater feel. Pretty clever, though it doesn’t really lend much to the hockey-watching experience at Bridgestone.

    What does, though, is a group of knowledgeable fans who support the Preds with a sort of high school-like charm, as evidenced by the many chants they’ve come up with for important points in the game, such as after home-team goals. They’re egged on by the sight of Tim McGraw singing “I Like It, I Love It” on the videoboard after every goal, which has to be one of the catchiest goal songs in the NHL. The poor fans of the Jets, the visiting team on the night I attended, had to listen to Tim seven times during a Predators rout, and I got a taste of what it’s really like when times are good in Smashville.

Center map

The Particulars

Home Teams
Nashville Predators

501 Broadway
Nashville, TN 37203

Year Opened


Upcoming Events
All times local
CMA Awards - Nashville
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
7:00 pm
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Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators
Saturday, November 17, 2018
7:00 pm
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Scott Hamilton And Friends On Ice - Nashville
Sunday, November 18, 2018
5:00 pm
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Scott Hamilton and Friends
Sunday, November 18, 2018
5:00 pm
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Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators
Monday, November 19, 2018
7:00 pm
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