The Nashville Metro Council voted overwhelmingly to approve financing for the construction of the new Music City Center after a long and, at times, contentious debate. The approval of the new convention center also means that plans will go forward for the Nashville Medical Trade Center—a permanent medical —at the site of the existing Nashville Convention Center.
The new convention center, approved by a vote of 29 to 9 on January 19, will be constructed just a few blocks from the existing convention center. The $585 million facility will be three times as large, with about 360,000 square feet of exhibition space.
In the weeks and months leading up to the vote, opposition to the project emerged in the form of a citizen’s group called Nashville’s Priorities, which argued that the project was too expensive and should be put up for a public referendum.
Some of the economic concerns were blunted by the announcement in December that a Dallas-based developer, Market Center Management Co., would buy the Nashville Convention Center for $250 million and turn it into the Nashville Medical Trade Center. The developers are planning a 12-story, 2 million-square-foot permanent trade show, leasing space to more than 600 manufacturers and vendors of medical equipment and supplies to showcase their products and services. The trade center expects to have 200,000 square feet of exhibition space for temporary events and trade shows, as well as meeting rooms and conference facilities. The medical mart would be the first of its kind.
“With the approval of the Music City Center, we are accelerating our reuse plan for the existing convention center as an open-daily trade center,” said Bill Winsor, president and chief executive officer of Market Center Management, in a press release. “The new convention center is essential for attracting global health-care trade events that will welcome tens of thousands of visitors to Nashville. And the trade center will offer both permanent and temporary exhibition space complementing the Music City Center,” he added. “The synergy between the two facilities will create the most attractive health-care exhibition option in the U.S.”
Both the new convention center and the “medical mart,” as it has been called, are scheduled to open in 2013.
“For our industry this has been an issue about meeting demand,” said Butch Spyridon, president, Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, in a press release. “This takes Nashville to a new level of competitiveness.” Music City Center already has 26 meetings booked, representing 280,000 hotel room nights.