NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The population in Smashville is rising, and that's a welcome sign for downtown businesses struggling to recover from the pandemic.
Starting Monday, capacity inside Bridgestone Arena increased to 33 percent or about 5,700 fans. This means 1,500 additional fans can now rally behind the Predators each game and spend time downtown before and after the games.
Sidewalks on Lower Broadway were filled with people wearing Predators jerseys Monday night, with many making stops in bars and restaurants.
"I’ve slowly seen it come back to life, and it's been so amazing," said Katie Marie, a musician performing at Legends Corner. "It just brings the spirit of the city alive again, and it brings a sense of normalcy."
Like many musicians, Katie Marie was temporarily out of work due to the pandemic. Now that she is back to performing her regular Monday night gig at Legends Corner, she said the number of people in the audience continues to increase.
"I feel like for April, it's been busier than normal," said Katie Marie. "This makes me think people are happy to be back out seeing live music."
It's been more than a year since Bridgestone Arena was at full capacity for an event. According to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., the pandemic cost the city $4.5 billion dollars in visitor spending in 2020.
Business owners and employees say every additional person who returns to downtown makes a big difference.
"I know a lot of people I’ve talked to who come in town are saying this is my first live music experience in a year, and they are so grateful for it," said Katie Marie.
The schedule at Bridgestone Arena is slowly starting to fill up again. In addition to upcoming Predators games, the "In Real Life Comedy Tour" is set for April 24, and several concerts including Alabama and Luke Bryan are set for July.
NCVC officials say Bridgestone isn't the only business seeing improvement. Hotel occupancy is also up with the April 9-10 weekend coming in at 77.2 percent, up from 74.1 percent the prior weekend. And preliminary hotel data shows 59.2 percent occupancy for April 1-10 - a 3% increase from the previous week.