Council questions convention center 'team' - WKRN News 2

Council questions convention center 'team'

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Metro Council had its first chance late Tuesday to see, hear and ask questions of where Mayor Karl Dean's administration is headed in its proposed Nashville convention center.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Dean said the session would not include any financing decisions and called it "a way to inform council what our though process is and what we have been reviewing and thinking about."

Mayor Dean has said he wants to keep the project cost around $600 million.

It's the cost of a proposed 1,000-room hotel attached to the project, however, that drew the most attention and questions at the council session.

For nearly an hour, council members heard a presentation from the numerous groups identified as the "Metro Government Team."

Team members included representatives from financial advisor First Southwest, underwriter Goldman Sachs, project advisor C.H. Johnson Consulting and the proposed hotel operator for the Music City Center.

Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling began his part of the presentation by identifying HVS Consulting as the group that will provide an independent feasibility study on the entire project.

After a presentation from the rest of the "team" that focused on a dizzying array of charts, payment plans and comparisons to other city's convention centers, it was clear the intent was to show a critical need to include the hotel as part of the conventNASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Metro Council had its first chance late Tuesday to see, hear and ask questions of where Mayor Karl Dean's administration is headed in its proposed Music City Convention Center.

Earlier in the day Mr. Dean said said the session would not include any financing decisions, but he called it, "a way to inform council what our though process is and what we have been reviewing and thinking about."

Mayor Dean wants to keep the project cost around the $600-million dollar mark, but it's the cost of a proposed 1000-room hotel attached to the project that's drew the most attention at the Council session-- and questions.

For nearly an hour, council members heard a presentation from the numerous groups identified as the "Metro Government Team."

These included representatives from financial advisor First Southwest, underwriter Goldman Sachs, prject advisor C.H. Johnson Consulting and the proposed hotel operator for the Music City Center.

Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling began his part of the presentation by identifying HVS Consulting as the group that will provide an independent feasibility study on the entire project.

After a presentation from the rest of the "team" that focused on a dizzying array of charts, payment plans and comparisons to other city's convention centers, it was clear the intent was to show a critical need to include the hotel as part of the convention center project.

Then it was time for the questions.

Council member Jim Gotto started by saying, "until we see the finished [financing] plan, that's when we will have the real questions."

He followed up later in the session with a question about the expected occupancy rate of the hotel that would be part of the convention center.

Mayor Dean believes hotel-motel taxes could support bonds that would build the convention center part of the project.

Gotto said council members should know the occupancy rate "so [Metro government] won't be bleeding red."

The councilman also said he could not vote for the project if the hotel and convention center financing are not included together.

Riebeling told Gotto it is the administration's "intent and desire" to package the financing together.

Council member Greg Adkins said he is in the meeting business, and he said conventions "won't look at a site unless a hotel is attached."

The issue really, Mayor Dean says, comes down to "how big a hotel can we finance."

The same could be said for most council members, and they are waiting to see how the hotel can be financed.

The administration hopes to present its convention center package by either late November or early December project.

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