Nashville Convention Center Controversy Not Over
Earlier this week it was announced that Omni Hotels would be participating in a new massive convention center project in downtown Nashville, and that this project would include an expansion of the Country Music Hall of Fame, doubling the size of the Hall. (You can read details of the project HERE).
Many music lovers and country music traditionalists are excited by the announcement. As much as many Nashville institutions such as Gaylord Entertainment and major labels are seen as robbers barons of the best music interests of Music City, the Hall of Fame has been an exception to the rule.
But some applauding the expansion have maybe forgotten where this convention center project started, and how we got to this point, specifically that another hall of fame, The Musician’s Hall of Fame, was eminent domained by the City of Nashville and bulldozed to make way for the new building. And that since the Musician’s HOF was only given 10 days to vacate, many of its antiquities were caught in the Nashville flood this Spring and destroyed.
Another interesting wrinkle to this story is that one of the reasons the Musician’s HOF and Nashville could not come to a buyout agreement before the building was bulldozed is because the operators of the Musician’s HOF said they were promised space in the new convention center where they could re-create the Hall, but later that proposal was pulled.
“We were told that they would provide us a place to go for free while the construction was goin’ on for the convention center for the next three years, and then we would move into the new convention center. They brought plans over, they had the plans drawn out for us.” says Joe Chambers, owner/operator of the Musician’s Hall.
At that time there was no mention of expanding the Country Music HOF as part of the convention center project. As much as I’m am happy to see such a large commitment to the Country Music HOF by Nashville through the convention center, it’s hard not to wonder if the dissolving of the offer to the Musicians HOF came about after the City approached the Country HOF to be part of the project, or vice versa.
And the Musician’s HOF isn’t the only one feeling wronged by the convention center project. The other jilted lover in this sticky game of city politics is none other than Gaylord Entertainment, Nashville’s second-largest employer, and right now the keyholder to the mother church of country music, The Ryman Auditorium, and WSM’s Grand Ole Opry.
They say politics makes strange bedfellows, and this was the case with opposition to the new convention center. Gaylord, not really known as a champion of the little guy, gave $8,500 to an organization called “Nashville’s Priorities” when the convention center was just a proposal. The group was constructed to fight the project, and by proxy, save the Musician’s HOF.
But Gaylord was being no steward of history. The reason Gaylord fought the new convention center is because at the time their Opryland convention center was the only big game in town. Nashville’s relationship with Omni was a direct threat to Gaylord’s convention revenue, which has caused a major strain between Nashville and one of its largest land owners and corporate citizens. (Read more about the reasons for the Nashville/Gaylord strained relationship and the implications).
Gaylord’s biggest beef is that public money will be used to build the convention center that Omni will profit from. Omni will also receive tax breaks from the city, with the idea that a new employer and new tax revenue from more conventions will in the long run benefit the city.
“Mayor Karl Dean is proposing that Metro government chip in some hefty incentives, including $103 million in tourism taxes over 20 years, $25 million in tax increment financing in 2011 and a partial abatement of 62.5 percent of Omni’s property taxes.”
So what does all this have to do with Saving Country Music?
The lower Broadway region of downtown Nashville is the last bastion of what Music City used to be. Large civic projects like the new convention center continue to gobble up landmarks and venue space that keeps the music in Music City. Furthermore strains in the relationship between Gaylord and Nashville could have long term implications on Nashville landmarks like the Grand Ole Opry. If Gaylord decides Nashville is no longer a good place to do business, they may start to sell off their properties in the downtown corridor, or restrain future projects, like reopening the Opryland Themepark.
Right now there is a war raging for the heart of Nashville, and the city-backed convention center is where the battle is being fought. The Country Music HOF expansion was likely brought up as a way to appease the grass roots concerns for the project. Though the idea sounds good, I will be a little speculative until we see just how this expansion fleshes out. And as for Gaylord, they could go a long way toward appeasing the grass roots themselves.
August 28, 2010 @ 1:30 pm
i just hate political crooks or is it crooked politics ??? there’s a song hidin’ in side of all this… i sure hope someone finds it !!!
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August 28, 2010 @ 2:23 pm
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August 28, 2010 @ 2:34 pm
Gaylord USE Hank Sr. to promote their agenda?????????? naw
August 28, 2010 @ 3:02 pm
I guess I implied it in the article but didn’t come out and say it:
I think one of the best chances to see the Opry Reinstate Hank and generally return to its roots is if Gaylord Entertainment sold the Ryman, WSM, etc. And I honestly don’t think it is a far fetched notion that could happen in the future.
August 28, 2010 @ 3:55 pm
damn we’re all alone here… i reckon “not everybody likes us”
August 28, 2010 @ 4:49 pm
THE ONLY UPBEAT SIDE OF THIS SAD STORY IS THE FACT THAT…LIKE THE PEOPLE THAT MADE THE GRAND OLE OPRY WHAT IT WAS YESTERDAY,(BEFORE THE GAYLORDS)…FINALY GAYLORD ENTERPRISES IS GETTING SOME OF WHAT IT HAS DISHED OUT! GAYLORD ENTERPRISES WAS TRYING TO MAKE A DISNEYLAND OUT OF COUNTRY MUSIC…UNFORTUNATELY FOR THEM(and us)THE TRASHVILLE POLITICIANS TOOK THE BALL AND RAN WITH IT BEFORE THEY COULD FINISH THEIR PLAY! THE GREED OF POLITICS HAS TAKEN OVER WHAT MADE THE CITY FAMOUS IN THE FIRST PLACE!
August 28, 2010 @ 5:12 pm
“GAYLORD ENTERPRISES WAS TRYING TO MAKE A DISNEYLAND OUT OF COUNTRY MUSIC”
Very well put.
August 28, 2010 @ 7:09 pm
I think it’s time for real country music to abandon Nashville. I say come a little farther south east to Chattanooga. We have a rich musical past, a few good clubs & we’re just waiting for some music scene to get moving. We have a yearly music festival (Riverbend, Ray Wylie Hubbard played this year). Nashville is a dieing place musically. It’s time to abandon ship.
August 28, 2010 @ 8:46 pm
I agree and disagree Ga Outlaw.
On one hand I appreciate what you’re saying, but I think we need to wage this fight on all fronts, wherever the battle is, we should be there. Concede no ground. Its great that there’s local scenes in Chattanooga or Austin or wherever and someday a city might overtake Nashville as Music City. But until that day, I think we must speak out about what we see happening.
August 29, 2010 @ 4:42 am
Thanks for this post! I have to make one correction though you say that The Grand Ole Opry is “the mother church of country music” it is not. It is a long-standing and pivotal program that used to be (and on occasion, still is- like now due to the flood) held in the actual mother church of country music, The Ryman Auditorium.
I hope the The Musician”™s Hall of Fame finds a suitable home after all this mess.
August 29, 2010 @ 7:37 am
Thanks for the correction Baron. My wanting to be dramatic probably blinded me to a fact I already knew.
August 30, 2010 @ 5:35 pm
political crooks and crooked politicians. an oxymoron. it’s a shame to see the bull shit but what else is new?