Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Convention center projections continue to sink in a bog of broken promises

The new convention center is struggling to meet the projections its marketers set in order to sell the most expensive capital project in Nashville's history to Nashvillians. Sometimes I really hate being right. Indeed, I would have relished being wrong about Music City Center. But the red flags we waved continue to flip to red spreadsheet numbers. Promises continue to be broken.

You may remember that Goldman Sachs said that if convention consulting firm HVS projections are off 25% between adoption of the proposal and 2017, then our General Fund for dedicated Metro services has to kick in $5.29 million in 2017 alone. That's less money for Nashvillians and more money for tourism industry obligations.

And don't forget that HVS already dramatically low-balled projections on the utility bills of the behemoth convention venue during its first year to the tune of $4 million. Its inaugural debt is already worse than imagined.

So, of course we find out more bad news from the very newspaper that donated money to the Mayor's marketing campaign to hawk the lumbering, ponderous beast:

According to [the HVS] study — updated in September 2010 to take into account the addition of the Omni headquarters hotel — Music City Center during the 2013-14 fiscal year would generate 49 convention and trade shows, a category distinguished by producing considerably more overnight hotel stays than consumer shows, conferences, banquets and other smaller events. Conventions and trade shows would account for 418,950 hotel room nights, the study found.

But current CVB numbers for this stretch — July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014 — are 22 conventions and trade shows that would produce 134,921 hotel room nights. Tourism and city officials point out the center’s adjoining hotel won’t open until three months into this period, and thus they discount the projections as no longer applicable.

Buoyed by the consulting firm's serial exaggerations, Karl Dean, the Conventions Mayor, and his tourism industry patrons are dragging us down the path that Goldman Sachs warned us we could go: toward funding a looming Music City Center debt at the expense of the General Fund that provides for services including our infrastructure, our schools, our police force.

I fail to enjoy saying, "I told you so", on this one.

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