Convention Center land acquisition bill likely to pass third reading

Monday, June 1, 2009 at 1:00am

A community forum held Sunday to discuss the pros and cons of a new downtown convention center likely won’t have much affect on a Metro Council vote on Tuesday to allocate $75 million to start the land acquisition phase of the project.

Even Metro Council members who say their minds are not made up on the project as a whole — such as at-large Councilwoman Megan Barry and District 7 Councilman Erik Cole, among others — say they will vote to allocate the funds.

The $75 million, which will be derived exclusively by tourism taxes and fees, will be allocated to the Metro Development and Housing Agency to begin purchasing the necessary 16 acres in SoBro for the Music City Center project.

The forum featured Dr. Heywood Sanders, the leading national expert on the public convention center business, and Butch Spyridon, the president of the Nashville Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Sanders cautioned the $635 million in tourism taxes could be better spent in other areas.

Cole and Barry said they were comfortable advancing the project forward.

“He raised good questions and it’s stuff we all have to be able to dig into and figure out,” Cole said. “What are the accurate performance numbers for this facility? And I’m not entirely sure we know that yet.

“I have committed on the land acquisition. I’m comfortable knowing what we know at this point with the process for the Council as it’s been laid out,” he added. “I think the [proposed public/private headquarters convention center hotel] is an enormous question.”

Barry said she was likely to “move the process along” on third reading, as she did on second reading in front of Council.

“I still do not believe that my vote on Tuesday is an affirmative vote for the convention center,” Barry said. “Regardless of what the advocates say.”

District 23 Councilwoman Emily Evans, who abstained from a vote on second reading, said she found Sanders’ presentation “very compelling.”

“I think the way he was able to compare the forecasts versus the reality, that is a very compelling warning for people who are going to have to make a commitment on this,” Evans said.


11 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 6/1/09 at 2:04

Why would they spend money to take property off the tax roles when they have no chance of secureing revenue bonds to finance this turkey?

By: global_citizen on 6/1/09 at 6:51

It sounds like this Sanders guy is shining a light on the 800 pound elephant in the middle of the room. Those who are favoring this new convention center seems to be ignoring all the downsides and negative forecasts while only listening to the most optimistic and selective projections.

By: willtw on 6/1/09 at 7:17

NO TO THE CONVENTION CENTER! These people need be reeled in! Only a carpetbagger would promote an expenditure this city can ill afford to spend! This is a failing economy and the end of the recession no where in sight....You have absolutely no business spending public money on what looks like a big, fat laden piece of pork!!!
Nashville: take notice....If we are lured into this fiasco, make note of who approves and vote the sucker(s) out!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sheer stupidity!

By: JeffF on 6/1/09 at 9:01

This isn't the recession's fault. This industry has been on the slides since the mid-1990's. That is not a cyclical problem that we can jump on while prices are cheap. A 14 year decline in demand is a death rattle. The patient is on life support and other governments are more than willing to build more ventilators whether they are likely to get used or not.

The convnetion market was never really a strong one. Now it has been declining through two presidential adminstrations and the start of another one. Yes the industry has been through two complete economic cycles without showing a heartbeat. Yet the "business people" are able to convince their cities that their city has a brand and will be the one to succeed.

By: JeffF on 6/1/09 at 9:30

I would like every voter to become familiar with the term OBE (Off Budget Enterprise). Google the term.

Cities and states have developed these organizations supposedly as a way to foster good management of business-like activities. Instead these organizations (like MDHA and the various CVB and other convention center management boards) are being used instead to remove these activities from the prying, apparently ignorant eyes of taxpayers and voters. OBEs are designed to now to remove politicians from the accountability requirement of elected government. Their managers most times are paid in the six figures and have free reign to petition or lobby their governments for still additional money off the books.

I want everyone to know what exactly the mayor is asking for when he smiles and promises to set the convention center up under a newly formed board. This is not to help you, but instead puts the industry beneficiaries in charge of an investment of your money without any oversight.

OBEs also keep the populace from easily preventing the borrowing of money n their name. That is the reason this is being run through MDHA right now. We cannot touch MDHA officials no matter how much they screw up.

By: lisaleeds2008 on 6/1/09 at 9:40

God help the people of Nashville! "Just Say NO to convention center!!!" The one thing that no one has looked at what about the people that live here? I do know what Mayor Dean that "killed the State Fair" thinks "THEY CAN JUST LEAVE". This all about money like every thing else in this city...

Lisa Leeds

By: pandabear on 6/1/09 at 11:13

Karl Dean is lying to the people of Nashville.

Karl Dean is lying to the people of Nashville.

Karl Dean is lying to the people of Nashville.

Well folks, they're all ready to vote $75 million dollars out the window.
After that it'll be, "Well, we've spent so much already, we've got to spend
the rest to finish it".

And here's the final tally of votes from the people of Nashville.
You know, the residents that will left on the hook for this whole fiasco:


That's right. No vote.

Oh, did I mention that Karl Dean is lying to the people of Nashville ?

By: airvols on 6/1/09 at 12:31

Build it and they will Come! Studied to death and the only people opposed are the samo old people that oppose everything. The study did not take into account THIS IS NASHVILLE, pleople actually want to come here. I know, I do this for living and when we book in Nashville it's always the most in demand of all conferences. We need this and should be demanding the construction start yesterday!

By: JeffF on 6/1/09 at 12:35

You should find a job in an industry that can support itself. Sorry about that journalism/advertising degree hot helping you in that dying industry either.

Have you thought of getting a sales job in retail or even software?

By: pandabear on 6/1/09 at 1:59

I think you think way to much of yourself.

Let the people vote.

By: Time for Truth on 6/1/09 at 2:58

Too bad Erik Cole is voting for the Land Aquisition. I can say with some veracity that many in his district don't buy the MCC swindle. He should go with his gut instead of the status quo. Same for Barry, who has asked some good questions about the Center but seems to have accepted the mealy-mouthed answers.

Airvols, Nashville is already a destination based on the few attractions that bring people here. Those attractions will be taken off of the small amount of life support they receive from tourism taxes as that money is diverted to the giant sucking pig, which will do little for Nashville and nothing for Nashvillians. The worthy projects being shorted and needing more money from taxpayers is just one of the many ways MCC will cause Nashvillians to take it in the shorts.