The Metro City Council voted to approve a financing plan for the publicly funded $585 million convention center Tuesday night in a 29-9 vote. Before the council meeting started supporters and opponents of the project filled Public Square, outside the courthouse, with their opinions. (C. Cannon)
The news of this historic event is traveling quickly and surprisingly enough, in this economy, not everyone is welcoming the project. As the opening quote states, there are always two sides of every story. Towards the end of 2009, we published a blog expressing the concerns for how this building plan could negatively affect many business owners of downtown Nashville, as well as the city budget. It even seems as if some councilmen inside the voting walls agreed, “I am not convinced this convention center is, with this financial plan – in this most difficult economic time, right for Nashville,” said Metro Council member Randy Foster.
Last night’s decision to build the $585 million convention center is the largest project in the history of Nashville. Are mammoth convention centers like this a thing of the past? Voices around town say that cities with major convention centers are having a difficult time booking the business it takes to fund such a budget. Big businesses just aren’t planning extravagant conventions since the unification and globalization of the internet. However “Metro Council approved the financing plan that will make the Music City Center a reality. Mayor Karl Dean said it was a vote for Nashville’s future. ‘For a city to be able to do that tonight, I think we’re the only city in America where that is happening, and that’s a really positive thing,’ said Dean.”
If the city plans to enforce a tourism tax on the visitors of Nashville, how will that encourage business? One of the great selling points of Nashville, as a site for business conventions, is that it is geographically manageable and affordable to visit. Adding a center like this will raise the over all expenditures of the city and make it more difficult to attract big businesses and seal contracts. Word on the street is that the old convention center was already finding it hard to book events that paid for itself. The existing convention center has a medical future ahead of it though, it will become part of a $250 million medical mart—a plan that was contingent on Tuesday’s Music City Center approval.
This vote, in favor of the project, shows that the members of the city council are eagerly looking to the future. This look ahead to things unseen seems unwise considering the current national economic instability and the fact that when it is all said and done, it could cost upwards to a billion dollars. Right now all the citizens of Nashville can do is remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” From here on out, it looks like we will have to digest each step as it comes.