New Nashville convention center to open in May

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 30, 2013 at 10:31 am •  Published: April 30, 2013
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"We could never build a building that is as big as Chicago, Vegas or Orlando, because we don't have the infrastructure to support that," Starks said. "So we looked at where that sweet spot was and being able to accommodate about 75 percent of the marketplace was where we thought was a great position for us to be in."

The city already has the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, which is about 15 minutes from downtown but geographically isolated from the rest of the city.

The new convention center puts business travelers, who generally spend more than leisure visitors, within walking distance of Nashville's famous honky-tonk bars, The Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, a symphony hall and two professional sports venues.

The construction has spurred development in a part of the downtown area that has been mostly stagnant. A new Johnny Cash museum is also opening nearby and more than 1,200 new hotel rooms are being built in anticipation of the increase in convention travelers. The number of hotel rooms sold in Nashville topped 6 million last year, according to data provided by Smith Travel Research.

Debbie J. Culp-Sales, vice president of sales for Destination Nashville, a company that helps meeting planners arrange events in the city, said groups that stopped coming to Nashville years ago are returning and some who have never held an event here are reconsidering.

"We've always been selling against the negative concept of Southern, country twang town," Culp-Sales said. "It's changed."

Vanessa and Allan Thompson, of Durham, England, were drawn to visit Nashville by the music of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and were impressed with the live music pouring from the bars on Lower Broadway.

"Although we aren't country music fans ourselves, we just like seeing different things and how different cultures and different people enjoy their music," Allan Thompson said. "You can see by coming here that it is massive."

"If you love music, just come to Nashville," Vanessa Thompson chimed in.

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Music City Center: http://www.nashvillemusiccitycenter.com/