The Smashville Experience: How Do You Like It This Season?

USA TODAY Sports

With the Nashville Predators set to wrap up their first home stand tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Kings (got your tickets yet?), it's time for Preds fans to talk about how things are going at Bridgestone Arena this season. And no, I'm not talking about the action on the ice, I'm talking about the arena experience itself.

The Predators have long been credited with putting together one of the most engaging game nights in the entire NHL, and for good reason. I was floored right from the first time I attended a game in Nashville back in 2005, and the team has continued to raise the bar, especially under the new ownership group & management team which has taken over in recent years.

So how does this season's experience live up that lofty standard? Allow me to share my observations, but I'd love to get yours in the comments below.

Parking at Nashville Predators Games

While not something that's in their direct control, parking is a big part of the game-night experience for most visiting fans, and this has been a major frustration for a long time. Despite having a big-time arena in the heart of Nashville's downtown, the parking has long been an amalgam of small surface lots or garages located several blocks away. My old standby, the lot at 8th & Demonbreun, skyrocketed their rates to $15 on Opening Night, which is highway robbery (well, if it wasn't a parking lot) considering the new Music City Center features a spacious parking structure that (a) costs the same, (b) is closer to the arena, and (c) allows for easier access to major roads out of town after the game.

At the very least, the MCC brings a major new player to the parking scene at Preds games. If you're willing to pay for parking you couldn't ask for a better option, really, and if you want to save money there's still the free lot at LP Field  (with optional $3/person shuttle).

Opening Video

The 15th anniversary of the franchise's beginning is a fine time to take a look back, and the video montage reaching back to the days of Tom Fitzgerald, Greg Johnson et al is well done. It will look even better in 15 more years once the team has even more history to draw upon.

Following that, the pre-game pump-up video is a solid, creative piece of work as well. It's no "Run This Town", but then again, what is? What I do know is that it is far, far better than the Debbie Downer video they used last season.

Food Hits & Misses

I had such high hopes for Country Fried Steak on a Stick, but they were completely torn to shreds when my daughter & I tried it last night. It was overcooked, incredibly bland, and the whole "on a stick" thing doesn't work with a little dipping cup of country gravy. There wasn't a single redeeming quality to this greasy grizzle on a skewer, unfortunately.

On the other hand, I dig the new hot dog supplier, Kayem. Their PR firm sent me a press release about the changeover to Kayem franks at the arena, and while I'm not down with running articles for businesses just because they send me a press release (sorry, I'm not here to provide you with free advertising), I can say that it's a dang good hot dog, and where I come from, we have high standards.

I haven't tried the new country-style poutine or smores waffles, but have heard good things about them via Twitter.

To their credit, there is a new Twitter account for the Food & Beverage group at Bridgestone Arena, which provides an avenue for fans to provide feedback:

The Nashville Predators Energy Squad

Zzz...

No More Goo-Goo Goal

Yes, I know it's a sponsorship, but the changeover from the GooGoo Goal (giving away a GooGoo cluster if the Preds scored in the last minute of the second period) to a one-day pass at a fitness gym is awful. There are countless opportunities for sponsors to get visibility at Preds games, but a giveaway should involve something that fans might actually enjoy receiving, something they might not otherwise get for themselves. I know last season even if the Preds didn't score a GooGoo Goal the seed had been planted to go buy one during the second intermission (are they even available at the arena anymore?).

A one-day pass to a gym is of zero value, it's just a gimmick to get folks in the door so the sponsor can work their sales pitch. Heck, you can get a free 7-day pass to try out other gyms at the click of a mouse!

In-Game Amusements

I've noticed in the three games I've attended so far that the Kiss Cam appears to be gone (that's OK by me), but one thing I've seen talked about on Twitter that might make a good replacement is the Oblivious Cam. Put someone on the Megatron and run a timer, counting how many seconds pass until the fan realizes that they're on-screen. It's worth a try...

The bottom line is that it's very much a fun time at Preds games once again. I've taken each of my kids (ages 11, 11 & 10) to a game so far and they've all given it a big thumbs-up. So what's jumped out at you about the experience at Bridgestone Arena so far this season?

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