‘An Incredible Opportunity:’ Nashville Enjoying a Skating Boom

By Kama Korvela Stigall

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Nashville, Tennessee, may be known as “Music City,” but a collaboration between an Olympic champion and a NHL team is poised to make it one of the premier skating destinations in the country.

Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, partnered with the Nashville Predators to open a state-of-the-art facility for skaters in September 2014. The Ford Ice Center is home to the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy.

“I wanted to create an environment where our skaters start smiling the second they enter the building — just like when I was learning how to skate,” Hamilton said. “My mission is to make skating available to people of all ages, descriptions and ambitions. But mostly it’s about having fun!”

The Ford Ice Center was developed on property that formerly housed the Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch, Tennessee, an eastside neighborhood in Nashville. The mall was one of the busiest shopping areas in the city in the 1970s and 1980s. By 2012, newer shopping centers were drawing customers away from Hickory Hollow and the mall was all but dead. Crime increased and further discouraged visitors from Antioch.

“Anytime you lose a mall, the footprint of that mall creates an incredible opportunity,” Hamilton said. “I always say ‘Where there’s void, there’s opportunity.’ They are also accessible to a large population base. Where there are people, there is traffic that can be directed to new facilities.”

Since the introduction of the Ford Ice Center and the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy, the neighborhood has been impacted tremendously, both economically and culturally.

“Since the Ford Ice Center opened, the look of Antioch has changed,” said Danny Butler, general manager of the Ford Ice Center. “At the time of opening, there were five big box stores abandoned. The old Macys and Sears buildings at the mall were abandoned and surrounding strip malls were empty. Currently all the big box stores now have tenants including a billion-dollar logistics company (Cavalry Logistics) and Bridgestone Tires. Hotels have been built and remodeled, and housing prices have increased. The Nashville Predators are believers that the Ford Ice Center has helped drive traffic back to Antioch in conjunction with the library, recreation center and park that were also built.”

The academy, which is managed by the Nashville Predators organization, is able to draw upon the strength of the established Predators fan base. Coupled with Hamilton’s celebrity status, it’s a recipe for success.

“I love the idea that I am a member of the NHL,” Hamilton said. “Facilities like the Ford Ice Center and the new facility in Bellevue create access to ice sports for fans and future fans of the Nashville Predators.”

And it’s proven to be a smart marketing strategy.

Simply put, “If a kid is playing hockey, he is going to be a fan of their local team,” Hamilton explained. “It’s quite brilliant and very simple.”

For the full story, read the June/July issue of SKATING magazine.