The last vestige of the acrimonious relationship between the downtown arena and its erstwhile namesake disappeared last week.
During the venue’s annual midsummer spruce up, workers removed advertising panels for the Sommet Group at the Bridgestone Arena (née Sommet Center).
It was the quiet end to the rocky road that began the day before Thanksgiving 2009, when the Nashville Predators — which operate the arena — filed a lawsuit and terminated its naming rights agreement — reportedly a $4 million deal — with the Franklin-based company, citing failure to comply with its contract.
Sommet chief Brian Whitfield fired back, bringing attention to Preds owner David Freeman’s federal income tax lien — sparking the team’s off-ice story of the year.
Eventually, the Sommet lawsuit was withdrawn, an uneasy peace was forged, and the Preds were free to pursue a new naming partner while Sommet’s name still graced the building and its logo hung on the walls.
“This has been a very good investment for our company and its products and services, and while the naming rights deal has served its purpose for us, we do intend to maintain some type of partnership going forward,” Whitfield said in January. “We wish only the best for the Nashville Predators and the arena operation. It is a great facility and a valuable asset to Nashville.”
That less-than-full-throated statement of support signaled the death throes of the shotgun marriage.
If there was any doubt Sommet would continue its presence at Fifth and Broad, it was removed in early July when federal agents raided the company, alleging “ongoing criminal activity.”
The advertising contract quietly expired at the end of June, according to arena officials, and in the post-hockey, post-CMA Music Festival downtime, cherry pickers went up and coverings went down over the Sommet displays.
In addition to its airbrushing of bad memories, the arena is decked out in a new, mostly gray color scheme, abandoning the yellow-and-blue oeuvre used since it opened in 1997.