Preds take Bridgestone Arena lower-level flooding as chance to rethink facilities

Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 10:05pm

When Steve Sullivan saw footage of floodwaters in the lower levels of Bridgestone Arena last May, he had one thought: Preserve the past.

The veteran Nashville Predators forward was particularly concerned about a helmet he’d worn for years, one of such a vintage that it could be considered irreplaceable given the technological advances that have been made in hockey equipment.

“I saw a picture of the dressing room and my hockey bag up on the bench, and I texted Jeff Camelio, our assistant equipment manager, and I said, ‘How’s my helmet?’ ” Sullivan said.

But that mindset was unique within the organization, which has been the arena’s primary tenant since it began play 13 years ago. Faced with the need to renovate, the Predators seized the opportunity to update the facilities. 

Rather than just repair the areas and equipment that were damaged by water, franchise officials redesigned the entire locker room area to make it more functional and to keep pace with trends around the league. At that point, the Vancouver Canucks had started on a $3 million renovation of their locker room facilities at GM Place, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the late stages of building a new arena that would feature a state-of-the-art players’ area.

“The flood actually did the demolition for us,” coach Barry Trotz said. “At that point, we said, ‘OK, we have a little bit of an opportunity to restructure this a little bit.’ So we went ahead and did that.

“… From a functionality standpoint, it is probably as efficient as it’s been, ever.”

Three areas — the locker room, the players’ changing room and the coaches’ offices — basically were restored to their previous states. Everything else was moved and expanded.

“Everything got bigger,” Trotz said.

The equipment room was relocated right next to the locker room, which makes things easier on the players, in a space much larger than the previous one. The training room grew several sizes. Where once the team had a makeshift meeting room to watch video of an upcoming opponent, it now has a theater with an adjacent lounge area, something that didn’t exist in the previous arrangement. 

The equipment and trainers’ rooms also are closer to the ice than they had been, which increases productivity in both of those areas. 

“The space is used a lot better than it was,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “It was all kind of compacted. Where we spent most of our time — working on sticks or in the training room — they were smaller areas. We got to redo that, and it’s definitely a lot better.

“It’s unfortunate that it had to happen with everything that happened, but it’s done now, and it looks really nice.”

It wasn’t just the geography of the locker room area that was altered. What went into those rooms was — and continues to be — upgraded. One area that’s not yet complete is the training room, which all season has featured temporary tables for treating injured players. Not everything for that room has taken so long, though. 

“Our trainers were able to put a real cold tub in instead of a little cylinder,” Sullivan said. “It was kind of funny watching two guys in that old one. It was a little awkward.”

For the record, Sullivan did retrieve his helmet, and it was unscathed. He took it home and kept it in his garage for the summer before he finally brought it back, a rare historical artifact amid a relative modern marvel.