STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #4
- Location: Nashville, Tennessee
- Opened 1996
- Capacity 17,113
- Games attended: 3
- Last visited: 2022
How does a rink that struggled to get above 75% capacity in its early years find its way near the top of the rankings? Simple: today, Bridgestone Arena is the most fun place to watch a game in the NHL.
It has the best location in hockey, and probably the best in all of North American sport. Set right on Broadway, it’s across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame, giving visiting fans an obvious one-two punch of attractions. But even more importantly, Nashville’s famed strip of honky tonks are literally right outside the arena front door. If you can’t have a fun night down here, I probably wouldn’t like you very much. One of the games I attended was on a November Tuesday night and whilst I was pregaming to a live band, the guy beside me fell off his barstool… twice. It was 3:30 pm.
The arena has great curbside appeal. It was designed as an homage to the old Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry. There is also a 22-story tower, symbolizing the 50,000 watt WSM radio tower that would have broadcast the Opry across much of North America on clear nights.
The attractive lobby stretches high to the top of the building. The bowl is asymmetrical, where one side has the typical lower-bowl-club-level-upper-bowl structure, while the other side has fewer club seats, bringing the upper bowl closer to the ice (not sure why). Seats are all padded. Concourses are ample, and concessions are great (though crowded) and include spots to get a good Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich, chicken and waffles, and/or buttermilk biscuits. And the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is a nice diversion that’s right in the arena.
A performance stage is built right into the rink and sits directly behind the goal. A famed country music performer may well be the anthem singer that night, or you may get an up-and-comer and have a “I saw so-and-so when she was an anthem singer” story. A house band will use the stage to entertain during breaks in the action, adding to the overall party atmosphere. The pre-game antics are great with the music, the projections, the players skating through a sabretooth tiger head, the mascot rappelling from the rafters, and some playful mocking of the opponent. And the team makes good use of the “FangVision” scoreboard (so named for the fang-shaped video panels flanking the main screen).
And then there’s the fans, rated the best in North American sport in 2017. You’ll see a lot of Smashville gear in the stands and lots of gold. Hockey knowledge among those in attendance is decidedly mixed, but it doesn’t really seem to matter since the vibe is so rollicking and the crowd so amped. You’re likely not debating no-touch icing rules with your seat mate, but rather downing another Yazoo beer and enthusiastically waving a light-up gold towel.
Nashville knows how to stage a party. Hockey purists may bristle, but if the goal of attending live sports is to have fun, a Nashville Predators game delivers that better than any. Add the nearby nightlife, and it’s a blast. At your next chance, I suggest packing some ibuprofen, electrolyte mixes and (if you’re single) penicillin, and making a hockey trip down to Music City.