Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Revolving sticker shock: unforecasted costs of Music City Center keep rising

I agree [the risk to other Metro services is] the downside of [building a new convention center]. But it's not the thing you go out there and tell people.
--Music City Center chair Ron Samuels in 2009

Despite our red-flag-waving common sense that projected costs for capital projects have a tendency to be low-balled for the sake of selling those projects to a reluctant audience, those of us who questioned Mayor Karl Dean's plan to embark on the largest capital project in Nashville history were scolded for our "negativism". I'm wondering whether Ron Samuels thinks now that it is okay to talk about skyrocketing expenses:

The cost to run the Music City Center in its first fiscal year of operation will be about $4 million more than previously projected, according to a budget approved by Convention Center Authority members on Thursday.

The increase is linked to the expected doubling of the Music City Center’s projected utility bill, which is estimated to total $5.3 million from July 2013 to June 2014. The authority had been working under the assumption that it would pay about $2.5 million in utilities in that one-year period, based on a demand and feasibility study of the Music City Center project generated by hospitality consulting firm HVS in 2010 ....

The variance exists because the HVS study was conducted around a building that had not yet been built, said Nashville Convention Center Executive Director Charles Starks, while the more recent number includes newer estimates from Nashville Electric Service and District Electric Service using more accurate information about the 1.2 million-square-foot building.

Remarkable that unflinching MCC spokesperson Holly McCall was not trotted out again to point fingers at Metro Council (and the constituents whom they represent) for the latest bad news. The traction to that rationalization must be missing.

The revenues to meet these obligations have to come from somewhere, and I doubt the bigshots in the tourism industry are going to take up a collection among themselves to bridge the gap between fairy tale and balance sheet. Besides, they have future election campaigns to finance.

Nashville broke ground on this big box and we bought it. And those of us who were realistic and didn't lose ourselves in the wet dreams of Music City Center boosters were right. Now we can only hope and pray that their fantasies will not continue to endanger the General Fund paying for most of what the people who actually live here enjoy.


  1. There may be approriate reasons for the inaccurate estimate, but, "The variance exists because the HVS study was conducted around a building that had not yet been built,..." is laughable at best and obfuscation at least.
    Obviously the building is still "not yet built". Certainly by 2010 the building systems designs were virtually complete. To blow the estimate by 100% smacks of someone either wading in over their head or perhaps a desire to have that feasibility study look as attractive as possible.
    I enjoy your blog and likewise hope for MCC success...for all of our sakes.

  2. This is merely the beginning of the long road to more and more of the taxpayer's money being spent on something we could all do with out.

    I say change the name to the Karl Dean Center. I think it most appripriate that everyone be forever reminded that Karl should get all the credit.

  3. Are you two serious. Nashville would still be a land of 2.5 to 3 star Hilton Garden Inns and Hampton Inns if not for the vision of this administration. Literally, half of downtown Nashville is going to be built up and thrive because of this. Your myopic viewpoint is worthy of censure. My one criticism is that I hope Gaylord, the old Nashville Convention Center, and the new Music City Center can market themselves together to get more lucrative conventions that usually require convention centers 50% bigger than MCC. EVERYONE from restaurants in east nashville and germantown to Gulch, hopefully North Gulch, Midtown developers stand to gain from MCC. If the rainmakers don't forget about the old down town, midtown, 12 south, south nashville, east nashville, metrocenter, etc....then Nashville has the potential to learn from the mistakes of suburban sprawl Atlanta and become a world class city. But, spending the money on MCC is a necessary first step . Dont even get me started on the incentives that need to be spent on ABC's "Nashville"....the advertising of Nashville alone is worth it. And all the "small businesses" that feel it's unfair...you are the ones to gain from it.

  4. Are there super-large convenentions where thousands of people are situated miles away from each other, across a river, in a town with little cab service? What are these lucrative conventions that will inconvenience 1/3 of their participants?

    You then lost me at the phrase "world class city." Have you ever been to:

    New York
    San Francisco

    Nashville doesn't compare (and it shouldn't try to).