In a city where a hotel grand reopening makes the front page of the newspaper and headlines the evening news, Nashville warmly welcomed back the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The hotel officially reopened on Friday night, after devastating floods last May closed its doors for more than six months.
Colin Reed, chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment, welcomed more than 1,000 meeting planners, media, and their guests at a stunning reopening ceremony in the Delta Wing's atrium, filled with messaging, music, lighting, pyrotechnics, and aerial performers. While celebrating the hotel’s resurgence, he appropriately paid tribute to the thousands of employees who evacuated guests during the floods. Many of those "stars" lost their jobs while the hotel stood empty, but 80 percent had been rehired by the time the hotel reopened. The tales of the heroic evacuation came from video interviews with frontline staff members, who recounted what it was like when they put their emergency evacuation plan into place to relocate some 1,500 guests from the 2,881-room Opryland to a local high school on May 2.
Reed acknowledged that staff, whom he called "the best workforce in the industry," as well as contractors, vendors, and financial and construction partners, for transforming the hotel in just six months. "It took an enormous toll on our community and us," he said. "The road hasn't been easy. But this is a special day for Gaylord and Nashville. I never had any doubt we were equal to this challenge. We turned that challenge into opportunity. We did a facelift with a lot of additional surgery. We are the best convention hotel in the nation."
Gaylord poured some $225 million into the renovations. The Cascades lobby, where all guests now register, has been completely redesigned, creating a more streamlined arrival and check-in experience. Even areas of the hotel not under water received makeovers: The entire Magnolia Wing (the original wing) features new furniture and contemporary finishes. The 115 lower-level Delta guest rooms, which were affected by the flood, were torn down to their studs and rebuilt. New eateries include an Italian restaurant called Ravello and a Mexican restaurant called Solario. They are connected by the chic, new Conservatory Bar, featuring an Enomatic wine dispenser that allows by-the-glass tasting options for upscale wines, as well as private dining rooms. The Ryman exhibition space was fully restored. Seventy percent of the common areas in the hotel were under water during the flood.
The celebration weekend kicked off with a traditional holiday lighting ceremony, which began Gaylord Opryland’s annual “A Country Christmas” festivities. Other opening weekend events included the introduction of this year’s ICE! exhibition, a celebrity chef session with Guy Fieri, and performances from Nashville recording artists Trace Adkins, Craig Morgan, Keith Urban, and Sheryl Crow.