NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nashville Mayor Karl Dean Wednesday put a new price tag on the proposed downtown convention center.
Instead of the Music City Center costing an estimated $635 million, the mayor said he thinks it can be "$600 million or lower."
"Obviously I don't want to sacrifice the quality of the project or important programming, but I think I can find some additional reductions and we are going to work hard to get it down," he said, citing reduced overall construction costs because builders, in a down economy, are looking for work.
The proposed convention center shapes up to be the biggest political battle during the mayor's two years in office.
He is facing criticism from Metro Council members like Michael Craddock, who calls himself "skeptical at this point", even with up to $50 million off the initial price tag.
"That's a big step, but if you look at the entire picture, $50 million is not a lot of money when you look at $1 billion," Craddock told News 2 Wednesday.
He calls the project a "$1 billion one" because it also included a proposed $300 million hotel, something Mayor Dean said Wednesday the council will discuss later this month.
Downtown merchants, hotel employees and business leaders have long argued the convention center is needed because the city of Nashville is losing millions in tourism dollars by not having a large enough space for conventions.
The new center is expected to bring an additional $600 to $700 million in visitor spending each year.
"Fundamentally, we have a decision to make here because tourism is the number two employer in this city," said Mayor Dean. "We can pay for this convention center through hotel motel tax and other tourist fees and this project will work."
The special Metro Council meeting to discuss the convention center hotel is set for September 29.