A future NHL All-Star game in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena was a leading topic Wednesday night when Mayor Karl Dean visited briefly with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Dean, attending Game 1 of the Nashville Predators Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Detroit Red Wings, stopped by a Bridgestone Arena luxury suite where the commissioner watched Nashville’s 3-2 victory Wednesday night.
“We have kind of a running joke,” Dean told The City Paper. “Whenever he sees me, the first thing he says is, ‘We’re working on the all-star game.”
Dean first met the commissioner in 2007 when the city fought to keep the Predators from Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, who sought to relocate Nashville’s original professional sports franchise to Hamilton, Ontario.
Five years after the franchise’s fate seemed in jeopardy, the Predators have upped its attendance figures and stabilized its place in the city. In addition, Dean and the Metro Council decided to spend $585 million on Music City Center –– and chipped in public dollars for an adjoining Omni Hotel –– a facility that by all accounts is a key ingredient to luring an NHL All-Star Game.
“What he told me is that with the new convention center, and the hotels that are being built, we’re a natural city to host the all-star game,” Dean said. “He couldn’t make a commitment as to what year, but he certainly knows the citizens of Nashville’s interest in it and he knows my interest in it. Literally, every time I see him I talk to him about it.”
Nashville tourism officials have buzzed about a potential NHL all-star game in Tennessee ever since the council voted to approve Music City Center’s financing in 2009.
Ottawa, Ontario, was home to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. The 2013 event is set for Columbus, Ohio. The NHL hasn’t announced where the 2014 all-star game will be held.
While in Nashville earlier this week, Bettman told reporters the league plans to hold a future all-star game in Nashville. He didn’t speculate on a year.
Bettman also took note of Nashville’s new massive 1.2 million-square-foot convention center, which stretches across six blocks south of the arena.
“It looks nice,” Bettman is quoted saying on nhl.com. “Very impressive looking. Big, very big."
Music City Center is set to open in the spring of 2013, with the Omni Hotel scheduled to open shortly thereafter.
“They’ll make their decision,” Dean said when asked what the earliest date the game could come to Nashville was. “Obviously, I want to see it [happen] the sooner the better.”