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Artist Audie Adams talks about painting the smash car for the playoff games.
Lacy Atkins / The Tennessean

Audie Adams is a local artist who is careful not to become emotionally attached to a certain segment of his work.

It’s not that he isn’t proud of the ornamental paintings he’s had on display in the plaza outside Bridgestone Arena since the Stanley Cup playoffs got underway.

In fact, he considers each a smashing success.

And, that’s eventually what happens to each of Adams’ masterpieces. They get smashed to smithereens.

“You could say I’m painting targets, but I like to say I’m painting points of interest,” Adams said with a smile. “But I have to admit, they’re basically bulls eyes.”

Adams, 40, whose specialty is murals, paints the automobiles delivered from a local metal scrap company and turns them into the wildly popular Predators’ smash cars.

He puts the current opponent’s logo, decals and other identifiable symbols all over the cars. 

Along with the help of his assistant Ryan Shrader, Adams has prepared three cars to be pounded so far this year — one for each of the Predators’ opponents in the playoffs.

In a pregame celebration, fans armed with sledge hammers, pay to take swings at the enemy vehicles, in the case this week an older model Chevy Malibu. 

The money fans pay — $5 for one hit, $10 for three hits — goes to the Predators Foundation, the franchise’s charity organization that benefits several needs in the community.

The destructive practice started seven years ago when Sean Henry took over as the Predators president and COO. Henry brought the idea with him from Tampa Bay, where he spent 11 years as a front office executive.

“It was always one of those really fun things we did when I was down there in Tampa Bay to let your fans express their passion, while raising a few dollars for the foundation,” said Henry, who replaced Jeff Cogen as the Predators CEO in 2015.

In an interesting twist, $20,000 was collected from the smash car during the series against the Blues, along with a special silent auction, and donated to the St. Louis flood relief effort.

In the series before that, fans became so jubilant after Nashville swept the Blackhawks in four games that they danced on the smash car and then flipped it. 

The sledge hammer was nearly as big as Breanne Coffey, 21, of Hendersonville, who climbed on the back of the smash car Tuesday night before Game 3 in the series against Anaheim. She took only one hard swing, but that was enough to leave her mark.

“I just stood on the trunk and hit the roof,” Coffey said. “I made a dent; that’s what I wanted to do.”

Lots of fans crowded around and cheered Coffey on.

“I wasn’t nervous at first and then I looked up and my sister (Shannon) and she and everyone around had their phones pointed at me recording and that made me a little nervous,” Coffey said. “Still, it was a lot of fun.”

Next up was Tim Sprague, who played football at Overton in the 1980s and never got to take part in the smash car there. 

“We had a smash car just like this before our home games, but I don’t remember too much about it because I was always getting ready to play in the game,” said Sprague, who now lives in Murfreesboro. “But our fans always came into the game already fired up and I think the smash car had something to do with it. Hitting this one before tonight’s game fired me and my wife (Angeline) up.”

Angeline also took three swings at the car.

Henry said he could not take credit for coming up with the smash car idea back in Tampa Bay.

“Good ideas have many fathers in most cases,” Henry said. “If it would have failed miserably, I think I would’ve been blamed with the idea. There’s a lot of good ideas that have happened and what’s nice is we all steal from each other in a very complimenting way. And sometimes if you’re fortunate enough to move to another organization, you get to take some of the fun things you do.”

The process begins at PCS Metals Inc. on South First Street where operations managers Pat Wells carefully selects a salvage car he believes will best fit the bill for a beating.

Wells said it has to be a certain brand of car because of a deal the Predators have with the automaker. Other than that the choice is left up to him.

“We just pick a car that looks reasonable and then we take all of the glass out of it,” Wells said. “We also make sure there are no hazardous materials. The gas tank is removed and all of that. We vacuum it to make sure that environmentally- and safety-wise it’s ready.” 

 

Henry came up with the idea this season to bring the smashed cars back to the plaza after they have been compacted by PCS Metals and put them on display like trophies. 

The cars comes back roughly half their original size. A broom was stuck in the Blackhawks car, a reminder of the sweep.

An antique zamboni, which was used for the Dixie Flyers minor league hockey team that played at Municipal Auditorium in the 1960s and 70s, is also on display near the compacted cars.

“You take a day when we’re not playing at home, or not playing at all, and you have people literally stopping, taking pictures of the Zamboni, our smash cars are starting to get more notoriety and people are taking pictures of those or they’re are out there watching (Adams) paint,” Henry said. “So it really has become more than a game night or away game parties. It’s fun.”

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 and on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.