IT’S A BET: The MGMBet Sports Lounge, a retrofit of an old restaurant, opened Monday at Bridgestone Arena. (Courtesy venue)
The Nashville Predators have converted an old bar/restaurant at Bridgestone Arena into an upscale sports bistro to capture revenue year-round in Music City’s vibrant entertainment district.
The BetMGM Lounge, branded for the sports betting outfit and an existing team sponsor, opened Monday with a soft opening before Friday’s grand opening celebration.
The Predators and Delaware North Sportservice, their concessionaire, equally shared the $4.5 million investment, said Dave Urso, the Predators’ senior vice president of operations.
There are no physical betting spaces in the lounge, but patrons can place bets on their mobile devices inside the destination, per Tennessee state law, Urso said.
The Predators hired Betting Hero, a company that educates sports betting patrons, to help guide patrons through the process of placing wagers on their mobile devices, Urso said. The firm will have representatives on site during all Saturday home games for the remainder of the regular season.
The new lounge spans close to 9,000 square feet across two levels. MSA Design, a Cincinnati architect hired by Sportservice, designed the revamp.
The upper level has its own bar that seats about 60 people that Sportservice will use for overflow and private parties, said Mike Geczi, the vendor’s on-site general manager.
The lower level has capacity for 200-plus, with the original bar extended in length that can seat 40 people, Geczi said. There are more than 20 televisions and a high-end stereo system.
Urso said next year, the plan is to carry the NFL Sunday Ticket package.
The refresh replaces an old buffet-style eatery that’s been in place since the Predators started playing at the arena in 1998. Jack Daniel’s and Patron Tequila were previous sponsors. The restaurant was only open during event days, and over time, it became dated and was in need of a refresh, Urso said.
It sits directly above the team store, on the lower suite level. It’s open to the public with street side access. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Predators expect it to operate 360 days a year.
On event days, customers are free to purchase alcoholic beverages served in the lounge and carry them into the concourses and seating bowl in plastic cups, Geczi said. Pricing is less expensive than in-arena products, he said.
Since Bridgestone Arena opened 25 years ago, the Lower Broadway entertainment district has exploded with new development, and Urso said the Predators want to capitalize on the tourism market and downtown residents, as well as game day traffic.
Apart from the honky-tonks, a half-dozen new restaurants and bars have opened downtown over the past several months and officials with the team and the food provider thought it would be a smart move to tap into some of that business.
On Monday, a dark day for the arena, the lounge was about half-full for the soft opening as select patrons, including some attending the American Football Coaches Association conference, watched the College Football Playoff championship game on television.
The Predators played Tuesday night, the first hockey game for BetMGM Lounge, and it drew a packed crowd, which came as a pleasant surprise, Geczi said.
The lounge started filling up at 4 p.m., three hours before puck drop, and the bar was full until the end of the game, while others stopped by postgame for a nightcap, he said.
Menu items extend from ale steamed mussels ($18), jalapeño cheesy grits ($8) and loaded Buffalo chicken fries ($18) to whiskey glazed hanging bacon ($22) double-bone pork chop ($36) and the “Smashville” burger (branded for the Predators’ tagline.
“We don’t have live music,” Geczi said. “We’re looking to capture that niche. It’s going to be a cool space once we get our marketing out there and get people to know that we’re here. The menu is ‘sports bar with a twist.’ We still have a great steak sandwich.”
The retrofit is the newest upgrade to Bridgestone Arena as the Predators continue to form a master plan for comprehensive improvements that could surpass $300 million.
Urso declined to provide details on further arena renovations.
“That’s a loaded question; there’s not a whole lot to share right now, but it’s coming,” he said. “We’re still in the ‘what could be done’ phase, not the ‘ready to put a shovel in the ground’ phase.”