Sunday, September 19, 2010

Is Nashville big enough for two convention centers?

Some large convention groups that abandoned Nashville when they outgrew the Gaylord Opryland hotel's meeting and exhibit space are already booked for 2013 and beyond in the new downtown Music City Center.
But several that stage annual conventions with thousands of guests are holding out hope that Gaylord Opryland could snag some of their future business, too, if the Gaylord Hotels property ever expands.

With the Music City Center under construction to replace Nashville's too-small convention hall on Lower Broadway, the city will have two large convention centers to promote, although Opryland executives don't view the facilities as rivals.

Frenemies might be more like it.

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"No question, it's a head's up for Gaylord," said Drew Dimond, a Nashville hotel consultant with Dimond Hospitality Consulting. "I don't see how they can't be competitors. The bottom line is to get the bodies in the beds. (But) competition isn't bad."

Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, agrees the two facilities will go head to head over some business. "But Nashville is strong enough as a destination, and there is enough business for both to do well," he said.

Convention jockeying by potential customers — with their ultimate contract choices based on available meeting dates, room rates and other factors — shows how the two big convention players here may compete and complement each other when both are in full swing later this decade.

"I think naturally they will compete against each other, and that is good for the meeting planner," said Sharon Sullivan, vice president of marketing and conferences for the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Her group is one of those that were enticed back to Nashville by the prospect of the Music City Center opening in three years.

The association of nonprofits that serve the elderly was last here in 2004 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center and initially rebooked with Gaylord for 2014 on the condition that it undertake an expansion of meeting and convention space, Sullivan said.

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