NASHVILLE -- Simply put, Nashville has changed.
"In the last five years, we've evolved from a regional to an
international, year-round destination," said Butch Spyridon,
executive vice president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors
"Downtown has exploded with new restaurants, evening
entertainment and nightclubs," he said.
And there is another new side to Music City USA, Spyridon said:
Nashville is home to the National Football League's Tennessee
Titans, who play at the Adelphia Coliseum, and the National Hockey
League's Nashville Predators, headquartered at the Gaylord
Both franchises are in their second year in the city.
"Music makes us unique, but sports are putting us in a new and
different light," said Spyridon.
Nashville recently hosted the National Tour Association's annual
convention, with 3,400 participants, including more than 700
"The convention's timing couldn't have been better," he said.
"We've changed and have a lot of new product to showcase.
"We've been undergoing a transition, where we've been catering
more to tour operators."
Spyridon added that cities hosting the NTA convention
traditionally see results, but the new Nashville expects to see "a
Its change from a regional destination, heavily dependent on
summer day trippers and families, is borne out by the CVB's
Last year 33% of visitors arrived by air; in 1993, only 16%
Following are some other pertinent numbers, with 1993
percentages in parentheses: 16% of visitors were part of an
organized group (10%); 69% stayed in a hotel (52%), and only 11%
stayed with family or friends (19%).
The period also saw increases in the average stay (from 3.7
nights to 4.1 nights) and average spending per leisure visitor per
day (from $33.92 to $52.22).
However, last year, the city saw a decline of several hundred
thousand visitors from 1997, to 9.5 million.
The CVB expects 1999 to end as a no-growth year.
According to Spyridon, the closing of the Opryland Theme Park,
an amusement attraction popular with families, in December 1997 had
much to do with the decline.
Opry Mills, a $200 million, 1.2 million-square-foot retail and
entertainment complex being built on the site, with 200 stores and
an Imax theater, will open in May.
The complex is adjacent to the 2,884-room Opryland Hotel, where
the NTA convention was held.
Other Nashville attractions opened this year or under
construction are the following:Cheekwood, Nashville's Home of Art and Gardens, a $17 million
museum with 55 acres of botanical gardens, which opened last
summer.The continuing expansion of Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.
The rural Nashville Zoo merged last year with, and relocated to,
downtown's 200-acre Grassmere Wildlife Park and will expand.The $40 million Frist Center for the Visual Arts, being
developed in downtown's post office building. The center will open
in the spring of 2001.The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, which will open soon
downtown.The new $40 million Country Music Hall of Fame, for which
ground was broken last June, will open in the summer of 2001.