City Should Think Big On Heels Of NHL Success

Posted at 4:02 PM, Feb 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-03 17:02:23-05

Nashville hit NHL All-Star Weekend out of the park. So now what?

That’s the question city leaders should be asking themselves this week.

Nashville has proven itself as a great host before.

The SEC found that out years ago and moved its men’s basketball tournament here on a near-permanent basis, and the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 2014 was one of the event’s best in recent years.

But the NHL All-Star Game changes the game. From the hockey inside Bridgestone Arena to Fan Fair in the Music City Center to the activities and concerts in Winter Park, it was the biggest event Nashville has put on to date.

It raised the bar, but it also raised expectations for the future.

“Any interest in holding the All-Star Game in Nashville every year?” TSN Hockey Analyst Darren Dreger tweeted.

“Why stop there… how about the Super Bowl?” replied ESPN’s Steve Levy.

Yeah, why not?

New Orleans has long been considered the gold standard when it comes to hosting major sporting events, including a record-tying 10 Super Bowls. It is the perfect setup with a stadium convenient to downtown, quality hotels, a major convention center and endless entertainment.

Sound familiar? Nashville is all of that and then some.

The big difference is New Orleans has the Superdome while Nashville has an open air stadium susceptible to inclement weather.

For Nashville to take the next step as a city and attract the biggest sporting events like a Super Bowl or Final Four, it has to be able to offer a better stadium.

The NFL has proven that if you build it, they will come with a Super Bowl. Dallas, Indianapolis and New York all got Super Bowls in their new stadiums, and this Sunday we will watch Super Bowl 50 in the 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara.

Nashville should take notice.

Can you adequately renovate Nissan Stadium or is a state-of-the-art, retractable roof stadium needed? And, if it’s the latter, where do you build it?

Opinions and plans will differ, but the point is these things don’t come together, and they certainly don’t get built, overnight.

The dialogue about building plans, payment, potential revenue and impact for the city need to start now so the city is ready to act as soon as the time is right.

A new or renovated stadium could attract Super Bowls, College Football Playoff games, Final Fours and the economic impact that comes with it. Not to mention improve fan experience at Titans games and provide relief from the weather for concerts and the CMA Fest each June.

In many ways the growth of Nashville into the “It City” over the past 15-20 years started with the construction of an arena and a stadium to attract two major league sports franchises.

Music City is still benefiting from former Mayor Phil Bredesen’s mid-1990’s plan to make it a sports city. A few years later the Predators and Titans were here and Nashville was on its way.

Take one look at the growth downtown and see the impact of professional sports on Nashville. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Country Music Hall of Fame and The Music City Center surround Bridgestone Arena, and Lower Broadway has become a must-stop for sports fans and visitors alike.

The growth continues, but without a state-of-the-art stadium, Nashville will always be capped just below the elite tier of cities that can host those major events.

It doesn’t need to be. The worldwide reception of the city’s presentation of NHL All-Star Weekend is proof that the city is ready to put on some of the biggest shows on the planet.

The arena, the convention center, the hotel rooms, the bars and restaurants and the entertainment made Music City the place to be for hockey fans last weekend.

Nashville has the infrastructure and the hospitality to make it THE place for big events moving forward. All it needs now is the stadium.