F&M Bank Arena
Kylie Wilkerson is the quintessential NexGen success story, having started her career as an event services intern at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville in 2011 and working her way up to be named general manager of the newly opened F&M Bank Arena in nearby Clarksville, Tennessee.
“What I’m really proud of is how we are running it,” said Sean Henry, president and CEO of Nashville Predators and Sabertooth Sports & Entertainment, which operates the new arena. “It’s fun to watch someone get promoted from within to do something so big. To have Kylie as our GM starting the same way I did on the food and beverage side is pretty rewarding.”
Prior to her current position, Wilkerson was the director of event services at Bridgestone Arena, overseeing coordination of all events, including those with the Predators, NHL, concerts, conferences and televised awards shows, including the CMA Awards and CMT Music Awards.
Her accomplishments include event planning for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game and 2017 Stanley Cup Finals and playing an integral role in the safe reopening of Bridgestone Arena following the pandemic.
“This opening was the culmination of years of vision and hard work that was capped off with a memorable celebration for the community,” said Wilkerson, who took on the GM role in January 2022. “It was an honor to be involved in the project from groundbreaking to ribbon cutting and now beyond.”
Wilkerson’s responsibilities encompass oversight of daily operations at the arena and adjoining Ford Ice Center Clarksville, a single ice sheet recreational facility. She also has a lead role in the organization’s relationships with Montgomery County, the city of Clarksville and Austin Peay State University, whose men’s and women’s basketball teams are the arena’s primary tenants.
“One of my career aspirations is to use my unique perspective as a female leader to influence industry standards and best practices,” Wilkerson offered. “By participating in industry associations and events, sharing insights and knowledge, and advocating for positive changes, I can help shape the future of the live event business, fostering continuous improvement and growth.”
Her mentors include Ashlee Stokely, vice president of stadium events and experiences for Nissan Stadium and the Tennessee Titans; Ben Bosse, co-owner of Music City Screens; and Nashville Predators, Bridgestone Arena and SS&E colleagues David Chadwell, vice president, event operations, and David Kells, chief venues officer.
Kells “has such great energy, is always able to help find perspective and has demonstrated over the years how to build and keep strong relationships with clients, promoters and peers,” Wilkerson said. “He sets a daily example of what great leadership looks like.”
For a real-world example of her ability to foster meaningful relationships, during construction, F&M Bank provided Wilkerson a desk and workspace in their Clarksville-based main office.
She admits being a millennial has advantages, including her familiarity with technology and digital tools that allow her to tap into the newest advancements to best operate and promote F&M Bank Arena.
“I’m excited to see the continued adoption of contactless technologies in the live event industry,” she said. “Cashless payment systems, mobile ticketing and contactless entry technology assist in streamlining the event experience and ensuring a safer environment for guests.”
Growing up in Denver, Wilkerson was typically in the general admission line at local music venues such as the Fillmore Auditorium, Bluebird Theater, Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre and Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Her love of live music led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in entertainment business from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, where she was valedictorian of her class. Now, Wilkerson readily shares her advice with the next generation of live event venue hopefuls.
“My advice is to seize any opportunity to get your foot in the door,” she said. “While the first opportunity might not be your end goal, it serves as a powerful platform to propel you towards your ultimate goal.”