Photo by Mark Humphrey // Associated Press
When one thinks of the city of Nashville, Tennessee, the first thing that comes to mind is music. As the home to some of the world’s biggest country music stars, sports have always taken a second hand behind music in the entertainment industry.
Last year’s NBA Finals and MLB World Series shifted the world’s attention to Cleveland’s downtown revitalization and economic growth, but with how far Tennessee’s capital and largest city has come since the Predators were founded (1998), “Music City U.S.A.” has placed itself as one of the hottest cities in the United States.
As the crossroads of American culture, the home to more than 1.8 million people, and one of the fastest-growing urban areas of the Upland South, the city of Nashville has seen much growth since the 1990s and is one of the fastest growing cities in America.
Chart by Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization
Under the leadership of then-Mayor Phil Bredesen between 1991-99, the city saw an urban renewal, and several of the city’s landmarks were constructed and renovated, including the Nashville Public Library and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Nissan Stadium and the Bridgestone Arena were also among those built during this period, following the relocation of the NFL’s Houston Oilers in 1995 to become the Tennessee Titans and the addition of an expansion team in the NHL named the Nashville Predators.
Fast forward twenty years later. Nashville sports has reached new heights, but with an appearance in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the Predators are faced with a tough task: to bring the state of Tennessee its first professional sports championship.
Tennessee has come close to championship glory before — rather just a few inches in Super Bowl XXXIV, but ever since, the Titans have struggled to make the playoffs 12 of the following 17 seasons, the Memphis Grizzlies lost to the Spurs in the 2013 Western Conference Finals and the Predators lost three times in the conference semifinals before reaching the Stanley Cup Final this postseason.
With all the noise the Predators have made this postseason, the team has gained the support of country music icons such as Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood, the Tennessee Titans and most importantly, thousands of citizens in and out of the city.
Overheard outside of Bridgestone: “We’re not used to cheering on a winning team!!”
— Kirk A. Bado (@kirk_bado) May 23, 2017
Yet, tickets for a seat at the Bridgestone Arena have also been the hottest on the market, with the average price surpassing the NBA Finals, according to TickPick.com
Charts by TickPick.com
While the Predators are in the midst of a remarkable season, the Marcus Mariota-led Tennessee Titans have added to the promise following a 9-7 second place finish in the AFC South in the 2016 season.
The addition of rookies Corey Davis and Adoree’ Jackson, the return of star running back DeMarco Murray and the complete recovery of Mariota from a broken fibula he suffered in December give the Titans a legitimate shot at winning the division for the first time since 2008.
As the Predators host the Penguins for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Final game at Bridgestone Arena, not only will Nashville’s growth as a cultural and economic city be celebrated, but the hopes of bringing a championship home have brought together legendary music icons, a whole city and the state of Tennessee.
Follow Arthur Puu on Twitter: @arthurpuu