Mayor presents convention center financing plan - WKRN News 2

Mayor presents convention center financing plan

Posted: Updated: Dec 3, 2009 10:08 PM CST

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville Mayor Karl Dean presented his financing plan for the proposed Music City Center to the Metro Council Thursday night.

The $585 million project would sit just south of the Sommet Center in an area bordered by Demonbreun Street to the north, Korean Veterans Parkway to the south, 5th Avenue to the east and 8th Avenue to the west and replace the current convention center.

Mayor Dean said while the price tag may be high, he is confidence the center will pay for itself and not burden Davidson County taxpayers.

He cited Nashville's current convention center, which was built two decades ago, in 1987, during a recession and in a downtown that had little to offer its out of town guests.

"We paid off all the bonds to build it, all the bonds that were done to renovate it, all the operation deficit using the hotel motel tax," he said.  "This is a proven model that works."

The old convention center was built when "we didn't have the Sommet Center, the [Country Music] Hall of Fame, the Frist [Fine Arts Center], the Schermerhorn [Symphony Center].  We didn't have the honky-tonks, Broadway hadn't been cleaned up, you didn't have Second Avenue, you didn't have the Ryman [Auditorium], you didn't have the Gulch and it still succeeded," continued the mayor.

His plan Thursday night, however, was missing what some consider key to the center's success, an adjoining hotel.

"We can pay for Music City Center without the revenues from the hotel and still generate the funds needed to protect the city, protect our taxpayers and ensure our general tax dollars will not be used," Mayor Dean said.

The mayor brought along a team of investment gurus, legal experts and analysts to back his plan, stressing to the council that Nashville has to invest in its number two industry, tourism.
While the council has a lot of questions and concerns, many seem to believe the convention center is possible without putting a huge burden on taxpayers.

"It comes down to risk, and how much risk the city is willing to take on to advance the brand that is Music City," said council member Erik Cole.  "The question is, ‘Does this endeavor, in the end, benefit the city over the risks that we would incur to do it?'"

The Metro Council had previously indicated it would like six weeks to consider the project once a finance plan is presented.

If the new convention center gets the final okay, it will make room for the proposed medical trade mart.

The quarter-billion dollar project would take over the site of the current convention center and become the first of its kind medical trade center in the world.

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