How Does The Music City Center Compare To Previous Nashville Building Projects?

The Music City Center is Nashville’s largest public building project, costing at least $585 million. Here’s a look back at previous major projects and their cost to taxpayers.

Now known as the Metro Courthouse, it was the city's first building with central air conditioning. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

Now known as the Metro Courthouse, it was the city’s first building with central air conditioning. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

Davidson County Courthouse and Public Building

  • Construction began: 1934
  • Opening: 1937
  • Construction cost: $400,000
  • Restoration and Renovation: 2003-2007

Municipal was the original home of Fan Fair, now known as CMA Music Fest. This year's festival will be held at the new convention center. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

Municipal was the original home of Fan Fair, now known as CMA Music Fest. This year’s festival will be held at the new convention center. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

Municipal Auditorium

  • Construction start: 1959
  • Opening: October 7, 1962
  • Construction cost: $5 million
  • 9,654 seat arena
  • 63,000 sq ft exhibition hall

Municipal Auditorium was the precursor to the city’s dedicated convention facilities, used for trade shows and exhibitions as well as sporting events and concerts. The first program held there was a Church of Christ revival meeting. It was renovated in 1993 under Mayor Phil Bredesen for $1.159 million.

A vintage postcard shows the library when it was new. A parking lot now occupies the plaza area.

A vintage postcard shows the library when it was new. A parking lot now occupies the plaza area.

Downtown Library (Ben West building)

  • Construction start: 1963
  • Opening: January 16, 1966
  • Construction cost: $1.9 million

This building has largely remained empty since the library’s move to new facilties. During the courthouse renovations, some offices and functions were temporarily housed in the Ben West building. A proposed land swap would give the building to the state in exchange for the old Tennessee Preparatory School campus where the Nashville School of the Arts currently rents space.

After plans to convert the Nashville Convention Center into a medical marketplace fell through, th neighboring Renaissance Hotel secured a lease on the bulk of the meeting space. Credit: Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau

After plans to convert the Nashville Convention Center into a medical marketplace fell through, the neighboring Renaissance Hotel secured a lease on the bulk of the meeting space. Credit: Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau

Nashville Convention Center

  • Construction start: 1985
  • Opening: January 31, 1987
  • Construction cost: $39.5 million
  • Cost of adding connectors to other downtown buildings: $7 million
  • 118,700 sq. ft. exhibit hall
  • 178,800 sq. ft. overall

Efforts to spur construction began in earnest in 1976. A hotel/motel tax established in 1974 collected money to be used for promoting conventions and tourism; starting in 1977 one-third of that tax was set aside specifically for the construction of a dedicated convention facility. Planners initially looked into building adjacent to Municipal Auditorium or in Sulpher Dell (roughly speaking, where Bicentennial Mall is now). By the time the facility opened it was already considered undersized and gained the nickname Fulton’s Folly, after its champion, Mayor Richard Fulton. Construction bonds were paid off in May 2006.

Credit: Jai Sanders/Flickr

Several years before the city as a whole began setting funds aside for public art, the library budgeted $600,000 for commissioned artworks throughout its downtown headquarters. Credit: Jai Sanders/Flickr

Downtown Library (current)

  • Construction start: 1999
  • Opening: June 9, 2001
  • Construction cost: $117 million dollar bond issue also covered construction/renovation at eight branch locations
  • 300,000 sq. ft.

Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

The arena was built in hopes of luring a professional sports franchise to the city. It is now home to the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Credit: Nina Cardona/WPLN

Bridgestone Arena

  • Construction start: 1994
  • Opening: December 15, 1996
  • Construction cost: ~$150 million
  • Covers seven acres
  • Currently planning a $7 million facelift to create a new entrance opposite the Music City Center

Credit: Kaldari/Wikimedia Commons

Bud Adams moved his Houston Oilers to Tennessee and renamed them the Titans after Houston refused to build a stadium…and Nashville said it would. Credit: Kaldari/Wikimedia Commons

LP Field

  • Construction start: 1997
  • First game: August 15, 1999
  • Construction cost: $290 million
  • Covers 105 acres
  • Last fall, $27 million in upgrades were unveiled, paid for by a tax on tickets to Titans games

The rolling roof line was meant to make the Music City Center stand out from other convention facilities. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

The Music City Center covers six city blocks, but still is considered a midsize convention center. Credit: Stephen Jerkins

Music City Center

  • Construction start: 2010
  • Opening: May 20, 2013
  • Construction cost: pending court decision, could be as high as $600 million
  • 350,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall
  • 18,000 sq. ft. junior ballroom
  • 57,500 grand ballroom
  • 1.2 million sq. ft. overall

At the start of construction, the project was expected to cost $584 million. A prolonged court battle over the amount owed for land purchased from Tower Investments could add roughly $15 million to the price tag.

The total bond issue in 2010 was for $623 million. Money for paying off that debt will come from two-fifths of the hotel/motel tax, a $2 flat tax on room occupancy and airport ground transportation, and a 1% tax on vehicle rentals and sales taxes collected in the Tourism Development zone.

Of course, public building projects didn’t just start in the 20th century:

1783: First courthouse, an 18 sq. ft. log cabin, built on what would become the public square.

1784: Nashville’s first jail was a one-story log structure with whipping post and pillory, paid for by the sale of 200 one-acre lots in what is now downtown Nashville. Four acres were reserved for the public square. Nashville was incorporated as a town 22 years later, in 1806.

1802: Market House and new, stone and brick Courthouse constructed.

1809: Nashville receives authorization from the state to raise money via lottery for bringing water into the town.

1822: City Cemetery dedicated. Bodies already buried in Sulphur Dell are exhumed and moved.

1823: First bridge over the Cumberland completed, made of stone.

1833: Waterworks begins operation. The pumping station is on a lower river bluff, with a reservoir on Rolling Mill Hill. Replaced in 1889 by the Omohundro pumping station, which is still in operation.

1851: The city’s first gas lamp is lit on the Public Square.

1855: First public school opens, named for local education advocate Alfred Hume. It is still in operation, known now as Hume-Fogg High School.

1857: The city’s third courthouse built after the previous one was destroyed in a fire. It was designed by Francis Strickland, son of state capitol architect William Strickland.

1890: Nashville General Hospital built on river bluffs, adjacent to Rutledge Hill.

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