Hulking Music City Center Still Small By Comparison

The Music City Center spans six city blocks and feels enormous from the inside, even though it's much smaller than the country's largest facilities. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

The Music City Center spans six city blocks and feels enormous from the inside, even though it’s much smaller than the country’s largest facilities. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

The first visitors to explore the 1.2 million square feet of Music City Center this week are gawking at its sheer size. But as convention centers go, it’s relatively small potatoes.

Exhibit space has been the key measurement for to get an apples-to-apples comparison. And Nashville has 350,000 square feet. The largest convention center in the country – Chicago’s McCormick Place – has 2.7 million.

“We are still talking about what is not a very large center in the great scheme of things,” says Heywood Sanders, a professor at the University of Texas San Antonio who studies the convention business.

By his calculation, the Music City Center is roughly the 50th largest in the country, even behind smaller cities like Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Reno, Nevada. Counting some of the ballrooms bumps it up the list a bit.

Nashville officials would have liked a slightly bigger building, says Butch Spyridon of the Convention and Visitors Corporation. But he says the size still hits a sweet spot.

“I think it’s a really good size for the future of the industry,” Spyridon says. “We attempted to design the future generation of centers.”

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