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Austin Peay teams with Predators on more than just new $115M venue

By David Broughton

When the new $115 million F&M Bank Arena opens a year from now in Clarksville, Tenn., you’ll have to forgive Austin Peay basketball fans if they are expecting a hockey game to break out.

In what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind arrangement, the Nashville Predators’ Sabertooth Sports & Entertainment division is responsible for the county-owned building’s day-to-day operations, including booking events. Sabertooth also is handling marketing and premium seat sales for all of the university’s revenue-generating sports.

APSU Athletic Director Gerald Harrison said the Predators and the school worked on the design with architects Rufus Johnson & Associates, and Convergys Design Group, as well as Skanska, the arena’s general contractor.

Players will enter the court or ice by walking through a premium club area. That personal interaction is important at a smaller school like APSU, which has an enrollment of about 10,000, Harrison said. Clarksville, population 153,000, is about 45 minutes northwest of Nashville.

APSU’s basketball programs will each have a locker room and a conference room, and will share a training room. The operations offices will overlook the practice court.

The building, which will seat approximately 5,500 for basketball and 5,000 for hockey, “will have a Bridgestone Arena programming feel inside,” said Harrison, referring to the Predators’ home ice.

The venue’s two ice sheets — one in the main arena bowl, giving it the ability to host hockey tournaments and events, and one for youth and adult hockey leagues and figure skating — are as critical to the building as basketball is.

“This helps us extend our shadow 45 miles away,” said Predators President and CEO Sean Henry. He said Austin Peay now gets virtual signage during Predators games, the club has gained access to a student labor pool, and the additional inventory generated by the new arena has attracted 80 to 100 new sponsors for the school.

“Our DNAs are merging in every way,” said Henry.

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