Gaylord Opryland CEO Colin Reed sounded off to reporters Thursday on the notion he and his company ever opposed approval of Mayor Karl Dean’s new $585 million Music City Center, calling the observation a “complete fallacy”
At a news conference in which Dean unveiled legislation to help pay for flood-related damages to Gaylord’s Grand Ole Opry House, Reed turned defensive after he was posed a question about the perceived opposition he had to a new downtown convention center.
“This is a complete fallacy,” Reed said. “I hope the mayor comes next to me when I say this. Our company has never been against the convention center. Period. End of story. I don’t know where this comes from.”
Leading up to January’s Metro Council vote to finance the 1.2 million-square-foot Music City Center, some observers opined that a sleek, new downtown convention center would compete with the existing Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Last fall, there were reports Gaylord donated $8,500 to Nashville Priorities, a group that opposed Music City Center. Later, it was learned Gaylord had opted not to renew its membership to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, arguably the biggest cheerleader of Dean’s new convention center.
In an impassioned appeal to quell the speculation, Reed on Thursday said, “We never went against it for the whole period of time.”
Instead, Reed said his only issue was the idea of a new Music City Center hotel that would be 100 percent financed through public dollars, an argument Reed has made before.
“I came to see you back in August of last year,” said Reed, directing his attention to Dean. “My sense is, you understood that very clearly, as did Mr. [Metro Finance Director Richard] Riebeling. And the city has been pursuing, I think diligently, a public-private partnership for the hotel. And we are very comfortable with that.
“And so, this fallacy that we’ve been against the convention center I think is whipped up by people who like to see organizations like ours conspire against it,” Reed said. “And by the way, just to complete it, the reason our company put $8,500 into Nashville whatever-they-were-called was because of the potential threat of a publicly owned convention center hotel being built downtown competing with all the other hotels in this town. And it’s just not me that felt this way.
“There isn’t a war between Gaylord and the city of Nashville,” Reed added.
Dean chimed in next.
“Conversations last summer — it’s really been about a year — were all about the hotel,” Dean said. “I took the position pretty strongly in November/December of last year that I was not interested in doing a publicly financed hotel, and we’re working hard on the hotel project, and we’ll have announcements about that in the future.
“The key thing here is, and I want everyone to understand this, there’s not been a moment since I’ve been mayor, and there’s not been a moment in the last year — which, obviously I worked hard in the convention center project — where we have not talked to each other, where either one of us has not felt comfortable picking up the phone and having a personal conversation about what’s good for the city. And during all of this flooding, Colin has been a great ally.”