Nashville Considers Creating Convention Center Authority

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is exploring the creation of a convention center authority that would oversee management of Nashville's new $635 million Music City Center convention center, reports local newspaper The Tennessean.

"You could put a group of businesspeople, professionals and community members together to oversee a pretty important civic project," Metro Finance Director Rich Riebling told the paper. "It wouldn't be just another government department."

According to Riebling, legislation could be introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly within the next month that would enable the city to establish the convention center authority, which would have more independence and autonomy than a traditional Metro board or commission, like the one that oversees the existing Nashville Convention Center.

Although a design and a location have already been chosen for the proposed Music City Center, final approval for the project is contingent upon passage of an approved budget and financing plan. Construction is currently scheduled to begin this spring and will likely include an attached hotel that will be financed by the private sector.

Meanwhile, occupancy rates at Nashville hotels have dropped to their lowest levels since 2004, according to the latest data from Smith Travel Research, which says Nashville occupancy was 57 percent in November 2008, down from 63.6 percent in November 2007.