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Music City Center Marks First Anniversary -- John Dunn

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Nashville's most expensive public building is celebrating its one year anniversary. The Music City Center has changed the skyline of Downtown Nashville. The convention center impresses with its unique style and considerable size.
        
The $600 million building is now a year old. "We're extremely ecstatic about how this first year has went," says Music City Center President and CEO Charles Starks. 

The convention center was built with big promises. Mayor Karl Dean championed the potential for bigger conventions that would bring more money to Music City. Fox 17 News has been there for many of the largest events, almost all of which have had record attendance. "So it absolutely has done what we talked about in attracting those larger shows, and our future bookings continue to show that trend," says Starks.

DISH network is the latest large group to use the center. Nearly four-thousand people are on hand for its annual sales meeting. "We couldn't be happier, and the facility itself is just magnificent," says Bob Toevs with DISH.

DISH held its meeting at Opryland six years ago, but a major selling point for Music City Center is its downtown location. It is within walking distance to live entertainment and tourist attractions. "People have more choice. They have more interest in integrating and discovering the city," says Toevs.

Nashville's Convention and Visitors Corporation helps to book groups at MCC. "We were doing pretty good before. We're doing phenomenally good right now," says NCVC President Butch Spyridon.

Since July 2013, 300 events have been held, with have brought about 400,000 people to Music City Center. The estimated economic impact now tops $180 million. Nashville used to compete for conventions with cities like Louisville, Memphis, and Chattanooga. Now Music City is competing against cities like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Orlando.

The NCVC says the building has changed the conversation. Meeting planners around the nation are seeking out Nashville. The building has filled up so quickly, many groups have had to be turned down. "January was a record month, February, March were record months. '14 is going to be a record year," says Spyridon.

The Omni Hotel, which partners with the Music City Center, says its business is brisk. Rooms are being sold above its projections. "We had a very small convention center, and now that we have this beautiful thing right here, it's a gamechanger for the city of Nashville," says Omni's Tod Roadarmel.
  
Even Omni leaders recognize a challenge ahead. Everyone we spoke to tells us Nashville's downtown needs more full-service hotel rooms. Some are being built, and others are being planned, but Charles Starks says it's still not enough. "I think that's the only thing we're seeing right now, is we're bumping up against a little bit of hotel capacity," says Starks.

Fox 17 News also reviewed Music City Center's budget, as well as the hotel, and rental car tax collections which help pay for the project. Documents show that both appear on pace to exceed projections. "We have no fears of money problems or anything of that nature at all. We're well ahead of pace on both collections, and how we're doing on budget this year," says Starks.

Music City Center is enjoying the positive momentum that comes from being new. The focus is now on the future to make those big promises pay off.

Music City Center is also building a comfortable financial cushion. Even after paying all of the bills, Metro's Finance Director says it will have $20 million in reserve by the end of June.

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