NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and other dignitaries held an official groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning at the site of the $585 million Music City Center.
Crews have already started construction, making way for the 1.2 million square-foot center that will 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.
The new facility will replace the current convention center on Lower Broadway.
"This is a historic day for Nashville's hospitality industry," said Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau which hosted Monday's groundbreaking. "The new center has already begun to open doors to organizations and events we could have never hosted before and we've only scratched the surface."
An estimated crowd of 150 people braved the cool temperatures at the corner of the project at 5th Avenue and Demonbreun.
After a few brief speeches, local singer songwriter Gabe Dixon introduced "Music Calls us Home", a song he wrote especially for the city's music heritage and the new convention center.
As he finished, Mayor Dean and other special guests put on hard hats and at the moment the song ended, two pieces of heavy construction machinery began breaking up the concrete behind them.
The mayor told the crowd, "This is the right project at the right time for Nashville. The tourism industry and this city will grow and prosper because of the investment we're making in the Music City Center development."
He also told them after the large crowd downtown for the recent SEC basketball tournament, Nashville might enjoy the benefits of double that size crowd in the future and mentioned the possibility of attracting the NCAA Women's Final Four in 2014.
"With this project, Nashville proclaims that it is in the convention and tourism business to stay," said Marty Dickens, chairman of the Music City Center Authority.
During construction, Metro officials estimate 360,000 tons of rock and dirt will be removed for the excavation of the 17-acre site.
Much of it will end up in a fill zone on the Nashville International Airport property.