Monday, March 28, 2011

Boston's present may be Nashville's future

When the Music City Center is finished, Nashville will have 3 convention centers with 3 sizes, which will in theory attract more conventions. However, the city of Boston has 2 convention centers--1 large and 1 small--which cumulatively are not attracting more conventions. In fact, Bean Town's newest one seems to be killing business for the older, smaller one:

while the growth of the South Boston exhibition hall is undeniable, much of that business has come at the expense of Boston’s other convention hall, the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. Since 2006, five of the Hynes’s largest events have relocated to the newer, bigger hall, shifting visitors across town instead of bringing new ones from elsewhere.

And in those past five years, the number of hotel nights from visitors to the two halls combined is up only 9 percent, according to data provided by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. The new convention center alone was projected to have increased hotel nights by 18 percent in the same period, according to a 1997 study commissioned by a state-appointed panel, which also predicted the Hynes would not be hurt by the larger convention center.

Likewise, we should keep an eye on how Music City Center competes with or compliments both Nashville's older convention center and Gaylord. MCC was sold as a product that would attract even more business than the latter two facilities were getting rather than supplanting them as destinations of choice.

One other thing to watch for is whether the recession of the the past few years is used as an excuse for unrealized expectations. The Mayor's Office used the prospect of beating the recession as a justification for building a new convention center. In Boston convention center supporters lambast critics of their latest plan to expand the bigger convention center by using the recession as an excuse. If Music City Center business erodes growth of either one of the two existing centers, will the Mayor's Office likewise use the recession as cover?

Finally, keep in mind this sobering reality as the Music City Center is being built: the total number of hotel room nights in 2010 in Boston was less than half of the predicted number advertised when the South Boston exhibition hall was under construction in 1997. Supporters explained that the pre-construction numbers were "overly optimistic" and were adjusted later. That reality doesn't bode well for Nashville's future, but you can't blame those of us who questioned the project and who insisted that the MCC projections themselves were overly optimistic.


  1. Cost to travel to and in Boston is more expensive than Nashville. Don't be such an a** hole. Find ways to help the Music City Convention Center so the tax payers don't have to pay for it due to lack of success.

  2. Anon, Here is a suggestion concerning paying for the MCC. Embrace the Fairgrounds!
    Even though the Markin Report states the Fairgrounds is in need of better management, The Fairgrounds has an annual economic impact of 50-60 Million dollars, at a cost of nothing to the tax payer.
    If the city were to get behind the Fairgrounds, instead of trying to kill it, produce more events, the economic impact would grow substantially.
    The economic impact of the Fairgrounds could easily double in the next two years.
    The 100-120 Million in economic impact generated by the Fairgrounds would greatly help fund the MCC.

    By the way, using the same formula for economic impact, which is provided by the Chamber of Commerce, Thee MCC at a cost of nearly a Billion dollars, That's Billion, with a B, The MCC is only expected to bring in $100-$120 Million a year in economic impact.

    The Fairgrounds offers the potential for the same economic impact and the property is paid for.

    The Fairgrounds also offers an outdoor expansion to the MCC for large machinery expo's. alternative energy vehicle demonstrations, an after show destination for cultural events, and vital parking for large events at MCC.

    It is time to embrace the Fairgrounds, it is the tax payers safety net for the MCC.
    It is an important part of the Nashville economy and history.

  3. I agree with Shane. The reason being, people come to Nashvlle for the charm of a small, 'big city.' Yes, the location is great, but people coming to Nashville for a weekend love Tootsie's, karoke on Printers Alley, their first 'meat and three,' maybe venturing out to East Nashville or taking in a hockey or football game in addition to a convention. Face it, conventions need a unique, fun aspect. Nashville delivers on that.

    The fairgrounds is, and could be a bigger part of this aspect that helps draw conventions. How about experiencing a race at America's oldest short track and just a cab ride away? Though folks like Megan Barry don't get it, people who come to Nashville aren't expecting to go to the symphony (tho they would be plesently surprized and may go). They are coming for "Nashville." If we want the entire package, the faigrounds can be part of this.

    What's funny, and a case in point, the Nashville Symphony realizes this. It regularly incorporates Nashville's 'country' side into performances. Example: banjo player Bela Fleck playing with the symphony, as well as other 'non-classical' musicians.

    The mistake with the new convention center will be to forsake what Nashville is about. A huge convention center will not be a draw. NASHVILLE is the draw.

    Dean, CM Megan Barry and CM Ronnie Steine don't get this. They want to pretend Hee Haw (one of the most successful syndicated shows ever) never happened. They want to forsake our roots and our people to turn Nashville into a bland, generic, politically correct town.

    During Prohibition, Nashville was a destination town. A 'party' town.

    Dean, Barry and Steine wanna take away the party.

    And that will help kill the convention center.

  4. Shane makes another great point about certain conventions needing special facilities. An updated fairgrounds could serve this purpose. Dean's proposed mass transit trolley system could transport people to the updated fairgrounds and convention auxiliary center. Attendees would be impressed with a green transit ride to the convention center's fairgrounds auxilary center. The chance to take a ride to a "downtown fairgrounds" center is something they would certainly tell other people about. And pragmatically, offering this option to people considering a convention in Nashville would open many more doors than just having a downtown facility. Flexibility will prove a key aspect to the convention center being successful. An updated fairgrounds and raceway (car conventions) will truly make us competetive.

  5. I hope someone with some input to the convention center and tourism folk pass these ideas Shane and I have thrown about to the powers that be. We just don't want the giant, big name conventions. What we need is a constant and steady revenue stream. Hotel owners just don't want 100% occupany one weekwend and 50% the rest of the month. They'd rather have 80% every weekend. Like a stock portfolio, an updated fairgrounds that serves as an auxiliary to the convention center will serve our citizens AND tourism/convention base. And let's not forget, economically and culturally, an updated fairgrounds and raceway is part of the heart of this city.

  6. An 8th Ave trolley from downtown to the fairgrounds/convention auxilary center could open up an underutilized business corridor(8th Ave.). The Sounds baseball park could be updated at its current location. Instead of locating it downtown or at Sulphur Dell, we spend MUCH less money and fix it up. A trolley would deliver downtown residents and tourists within one block of the ballpark. This would help alleviate parking issues. It would also add to the family and neighborhood thrill of jumping on a trolley and going to a ball game. Also, it would drop tourists one block from our Civil War fort. This would be a step towards developing such history tourism(something Franklin is beating us at). This stretch also contains Zanies, Douglas Corner Cafe, Grimey's Record Shop and The Basement. There are many other underutilized buildings stretching past thr fairgrounds to where the Melrose Bowling Lanes once stood. With a trolley, this stretch could become an extension of the Lower Broad entertainment district. Locals could also ride this trolley downtown as well. This trolley would be a relatively short run to develop, but it would have a huge economic impact and tie in to the convention center appeal as WELL as serving the neighborhoods.

    Why is this kind of thinkng not coming from Dean? Megan Barry? What do you think? Bruce. Run this idea by your wife. Please.

  7. And if you wanna get crazy, run the 8th Ave trolley all the way to Maryland Farms. Figure out some commuter parking out there. Then it becomes a true commuter line as well.

    Marland Farms could use it. It is also "under-utilized" land, to use "Dean-speak." I've had to drive from downtown to Maryland Farms for a biz meeting. If I could ride a trolley, I could work on my laptop and prep for a meeting while polluting less and enjoying a true, "city experience."

  8. Mr. Barner,

    Can I add this:

    If Dean did put in a trolley to the fairgrounds, on Monday thru Friday it could serve as a commuter parking lot for downtown workers. They cud park for free.

    A ten minute trolley ride and free parking wud be incentive for a lot of people parking there.

    Once dowtown, they may haave to walk a few blocks, but that goes with Dean's idea of getting nashvillians to walk more.

    Tho General Parking mite not like that idea.

  9. To anon,

    To build on ur idea, the trolley cud loop thru the fairgrounds to Nolensville Road, then back downtown on what I think becomes 2nd Ave.. This cud work particularly well for ur Mon - Fri commuter parking lot idea for downtown workers.

    This wud cost a lot more, but Dean is all about grand vision so maybe he cud get behind such an idea. If he chooses to also get behind the fairgrounds and raceway with this idea, he would "win back" many of Nashvillians he has managed to dissapoint.