By Mike Hastings
I first met Jenny Halpern and Kristina Stork a year ago at a meeting of the Bellevue Sports Council at Shoney’s.
They were there to talk about a planned development that they hoped would include an ice rink. You see, they are hockey moms.
I could feel their passion when they talked about the need for more places for children like their’s to play a game they obviously loved.
They came equipped with a power point presentation that showed how hockey was taking off in Nashville. They the only thing holding it back, they said, was a lack of ice.
They would eventually make this case to public officials, as well as representatives from the Nashville Predators, and business leaders.
This week, all their hard work was rewarded when Mayor Barry announced that the city and the Predators will form a partnership and build a new facility at One Bellevue Place.
“Standing there was surreal,” Jenny said. She explained to me that she recalled the days growing up in Washington, D.C., watching her brother play at an early age.
“My mom and dad would travel up and down the coast, helping my brother follow his dream,” she said.
That dream led to a 14-year career in the NHL.
“It was really exciting watching my brother grow up and realize his dream as an adult,” Jenny said.
When Jenny grew up and started a family of her own, she had moved to Nashville.
“The Predators came shortly after we got here,” Jenny said. “They made hockey an exciting part of the community, just like D.C.”
Soon it was Jenny who was traveling all over watching her three kids play.
And along the way, she convinced her friend Kristina to come along. The two met and became friends while they were both enrolled in medical school. Little did they know then, but they were destined to become hockey moms.
“I didn’t grow up around hockey,” Kristina explained. “But Jenny’s enthusiasm was contagious. Pretty soon, both my kids were playing and loving it. And it’s such good exercise for them. It has helped them in other sports, with balance and speed,” she said.
Jenny and Kristina saw first-hand, how hockey’s popularity began to explode in Nashville.
“With the Predators, so many kids watched and wanted to play, but didn’t know how to get involved,” Kristina said.
Jenny and Kristina explained that they could see the future of the game in Nashville would be affected because of the lack of ice, especially after the closure of the hockey facility in Franklin. That left only the Centennial and Ford Ice Centers available to host hockey.
So the two friends decided to do something about it. They began a grass-roots efforts to convince city officials that something had to be done.
They soon teamed with Scott Smith and Spencer Haley, two hockey dads who shared their passion for youth hockey.
Now, the hockey parents were putting together presentations for not only the politicians, but for Predators, who they wanted to convince that a new facility would be in the team’s best interest.
They were able to set up and meeting with the Predators President and CEO Sean Henry.
“He is a wonderful person, and an excellent businessman,” Jenny said of Henry. “A wonderful person first.”
Shortly after, they were meeting with Tim Sittema, the developer of One Bellevue Place.
“Tim was extremely kind and he wants to make One Bellevue a place to enjoy all aspects - shopping, lodging and entertainment,” Jenny said.
There were a number of sites considered, but in the end, One Bellevue Place expanded land available for recreation from two acres to ten acres, and the plan came together.
There is still one hurdle to overcome, the Nashville Metro Council will have to vote to approve the expenditure, but that seems very likely to happen.
If it does, construction will begin this summer, and the new facility will open in 2018.
When it does, rather than name the building after some politician, maybe the builders should consider dedicating a statue outside of a bunch of hockey moms and dads, huddled together, cheering on their kids.
I’m sure Jenny and Kristina will disagree with me on this. After all, they didn’t get this going for glory, they did it so that their kids would have a place to play and grow.
What is more honorable than that?
Bellevue Can Thank These Parents for New Ice Rink