The Ryman Auditorium, built in 1892, was nearly demolished in the 1970s. The building was the home of the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts for many decades. Had it not been for country music leaders and local officials saving the historic building, the current multimillion dollar plans for expansion would not be in the works.
Thursday morning, a meeting to discuss plans for a $14 million expansion was held in the famed Ryman Auditorium. Marty Stuart, Ricky Scaggs, Vince Gill and Governor Bill Haslam, among others, were in attendance. The expansion will add a café, a multi-media history tour for fans, new event space as well as a makeover for the box office, concession and merchandising area.
The reason for the brick and glass addition, which will be located on the 4th Avenue (North) side of the building, is to accommodate the rapidly growing tourist population in Nashville and to add a little zing to the building.
Colin Reed, Ryman Hospitality President and CEO Colin Reed confirmed the current state of the auditorium, with its wooden church pews and state-of-the-art acoustics, will not be affected by the construction project.
"We are making this investment now so that the Ryman Auditorium is better equipped to accommodate the current and future demand we are seeing from both a tourism and concert attendance perspective," Reed said.
Due to the location of the Ryman, inside the downtown historic overlay district, the Metro Historic Zoning Commission must approve the expansion plans. Assuming that will take place within the next few weeks, renovations will begin later this summer and the project will be complete next July.
Reed confirmed that the company would not seek assistance from taxpayers for the expansion project.
Ryman Hospitality owns more than 2,500 hours of footage from Grand Ole Opry performances and episodes of the popular television series "Hee Haw." They plan to use this valuable footage in their interactive, daytime multi-media tour.
Plans to expand the Ryman have inspired possible renovations to The Wildhorse Saloon, which is owned by the same company.