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Hot Convention Center Cold Hotels

Ground is breaking on Nashville’s new Music City Center. The starter’s gun has fired for Nashville’s ring of downtown support hotels as to whether they will continue to reflect their tired facades and interiors or step up with capital improvement investments that meeting planners will be comparing to other resort destination cities and comparable designated headquarter hotels in close proximity to their civic convention centers.

As publically documented, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority continue to lobby for investment support for a new 1000 room hotel adjacent to be developed by Phelps Development, Portman Holdings and Tower Investments. From conversion of design concepts to construction documents, and then to construction of a structure of this style is a reasonable 36 month optimum window. With a scheduled 2013 opening of Music City Center, each day of delay in finding the necessary investment groups to support this complemental hotel project stack the odds against having a new hotel and convention center opening together.

Having a sufficient quantity and quality of room options reasonably close to the convention and meeting venue is a critical tipping point for meeting planners for events which the Music City Center is geared to attract. But when you look at other resort destination convention facilities as San Diego, San Antonio, Orlando, Washington D.C. , and Las Vegas, their aesthetic look, feel, freshness, and age of their potential event headquarter are factors in the decision process for centric focused prestige events and planners.

The reality is that MDHA has forecasted to double the historical attendance and revenue via occupancy taxes at opening. Double attendance. Immediately upon opening. The current schedule of events for the current convention center structure in 2010 is about 220. The event count is not projected to change for 2013, but the capacity to handle more people is maxed out at the existing facility according to a convention center spokesman. The new center’s added capacity will not change the anticipated event count from this year’s schedule.

But added rooms are part of the occupancy tax equation. Doubling the attendance means more rooms generating that add tax revenue which would appear Nashville may not have. Downtown Nashville hotels will be a major a factor when meeting planners are pursued to double the attendee count now projected by convention planners with the new Music City Center. Nashville’s lack a of “WOW” factor in downtown options may still make it a distant fifth in the field that it will be attempting to compete when meeting planners discuss other resort destination convention and meeting options.

Only one Nashville downtown property at least provides a significant sense of arrival statement for its guest: The Hilton. In proximity to the Music City Center it is also the initial drive by first choice by location as the headquarter hotel with the current status quo. In comparison to the Hilton, or without a registered  historic landmark cache’ the bulk of Nashville downtown hotels look tired and feel every bit their age.

Nashville’s immediate downtown inventory of 3053 hotel rooms closely matches the capacity of Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The exhibit space and meeting rooms between both will be within a comparable range.
The working relationship between the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, the current Convention Center, and Gaylord is very positive and they work closely together in bringing convention and meeting business events to Nashville. The organizations have worked together in host-alternating the same event in subsequent years. Both work very hard with the Nashville Convention and Vistors Bureau to bring business to Nashville.

Gaylord will continue to market a self-contained package within recently renovated rooms, meeting rooms, and public spaces in the past few years, and their historic captive marketing of Gaylord’s Nashville music city “Opryland” options for meeting planners.

The competitive reality is that other key resort destinations have a more dynamic options and geographic proximity of rooms to their civic convention centers. Doubling your meeting capacity without sufficient housing to support that goal make result in an outcome that even great Music City hospitality can’t overcome.

The Music City Center will require more synergy and partnering dynamic creativity and energy with their downtown hoteliers on the same level as their competitive counterparts in other resort destination cities to present a viable option that extends beyond a Music City Center Music City image, feel, and great hospitality. How other resort destinations are set up will be highlighted in subsequent articles.

Rooms within Walking Distance of Civic Convention Center
Nashville            3,053
Las Vegas         4,000
San Antonio    10,000
Orlando              6,000
San Diego         8,000

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