The new downtown convention center would add nearly $135 million to the Nashville economy, according to an impact study released by Mayor Karl Dean Wednesday.
The study, prepared by convention consultants HVS, estimates that by the year 2017 — the point at which the Music City Center’s business would have “stabilized” — $134.9 million would be generated annually.
The vast majority of that figure — $86.6 million — represents so-called “direct spending,” dollars spent by conventioneers and exhibitors.
“Consider the debt service of $40 million per year. … Every dollar spent will create $2 in revenue," Dean said. "These new dollars go directly into the local economy."
The balance of the impact would come from indirect and induced spending, cash laid out by businesses in capital improvements and new employees, for example, and the dollars those employees spend.
“[A waitress] could have $5,000 more per year available to spend at the dry cleaners in Hermitage or the grocery store in Old Hickory,” Dean said.
HVS also projected 1,500 new jobs in the city by 2017.
The impact study did not include the now-shelved plans for a new hotel. The mayor said holding off on the hotel was “the right decision.”
“The demand study says we are going to essentially double the number of convention visitors. The medical mart will bring 100,000 to 150,000 new room nights. We are going to be one of the strongest cities for the hotel industry,” he said.
The mayor touted HVS’s study as “conservative” and noted the current convention center’s bonds were paid off ahead of schedule.
“It was an enormous success. We paid off that building without using the general fund. Any operation deficits were covered using the hotel-motel tax. The model we have proposed works,” he said.
Restaurateur Randy Rayburn, who owns Sunset Grill, Midtown Café and Cabana, said even his restaurants — all located outside downtown — see business from convention-goers, with more than 30 percent of his customers from outside Middle Tennessee.
“In my 34 years, I can tell when there’s a convention in town, even in Hillsboro Village and Green Hills,” he said. “I think [the study] confirms all the studies. … It will be transformative, particularly as the Medical Mart comes online, adding another economic accelerator.”
Convention & Visitors Bureau chief Butch Spyridon said opponents who argue the convention center does not help provide for the city’s residents are missing the point.
“The convention activity fuels us, which helps us do things like July 4 and New Year’s Eve. That’s another induced activity,” he said.
The next step for Music City Center comes 8 a.m. Thursday, as the Convention Center Authority is set to vote on the financing package, which then will be before the Metro Council Jan. 19.