Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center’s facilities are under water after the Cumberland River breeched the city’s levees earlier this week resulting in massive flooding across many parts of the Tennessee state capital. Nashville’s municipal Convention Center, however, was not impacted by the floodwaters and is open for business.
Rick Broyles, Tennessee/Kentucky operations manager for Coastal International (an installation and dismantle service firm) provided Exhibit City News with a statement he received from management of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Show scheduled for May 3-7 at the Gaylord Convention Center. About 350 exhibits were already set up in anticipation of the 5,000 attendees expected to converge on the AFCEA Show, hosted annually by the association.
“We have confirmed that all materials inside the exhibit hall at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel are under water,” the AFCEA Show statement said. “The damage is extensive and it is doubtful that any o
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f the equipment and/or exhibit properties will be salvageable. It is unknown at this time when we will have access to the building. The hotel is estimating that the property will be closed for a minimum of 30 days and may not be back in service as a convention center for six months. We encourage all exhibitors to notify their insurance companies about the situation and to begin an analysis of any losses associated with this storm.”
AFCEA spokesperson Toby Jackson said she has no idea as to the extent of the damage to the exhibit hall as of press time. She added that the association is still considering its options as to whether to cancel the show completely or reschedule, if possible, for a later date.
Thought to be protected by FEMA-approved levees built to sustain the 100-year flood standard, The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center suffered extensive damage earlier this week as the river rose to levels that have not been seen in the last 50 years. Calls to resort representatives went unanswered, however the resort’s web site states that the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is currently closed. The resort has about 600,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space, the largest such facility in Nashville, compared to the Nashville Convention Center, which has 118,675 square feet of exhibit space.
“Nashville, Tennessee experienced unprecedented rain over the weekend, and therefore there is severe flooding throughout the city,” the web site states. “As a result, the hotel is not taking any incoming reservations at this time.”
Located in the downtown district, the Nashville Convention Center suffered no flood damage and is open for business, but just barely. According to Broyles, the flooding crept up to 4th Street and the convention center is located between 5th and 6th Street and Commerce Boulevard.
“We are open for business,” said Charles Stark, executive director of the municipal convention center. “The downtown is going like gangbusters and there is plenty for visitors to do downtown.”
While things may be OK for the municipal convention center, Broyles said the situation looks bleak for the Opryland Convention Center facilities which are located on the basement level of the hotel. Working on behalf of MC2, Coastal International was setting up three exhibits in the convention center when the floodwaters began cascading over the levees Sunday.
“We got our booths set up and ready to go and left about 7 p.m., but about a half hour later they evacuated the hotel,” Broyles said. “We lost equipment, tools and a gang box that is now sitting in about 10 feet of water, up to the exit signs. Everything on the show floor is trashed. About the only things that might have escaped damage are the hanging signs.”
Broyles added the loss of the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center facilities is devastating to the city’s convention community as the resort hosts about a quarter of the city’s conferences meetings and tradeshows. A May 4 article in The Tennessean reported resort management is working with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau to rebook its events at other Nashville venues, but it is questionable as most venues are already booked for the summer.
The Amerinet’s 2010 Member Conference, scheduled for May 17-20 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, has been postponed according to the organization’s web site. Amerinet is a national health care purchasing organization and about 1,300 attendees were expected to attend this year’s conference.
“Currently we do most of our shows at Opryland,” Broyles said. “We have lost at least four to six months of work. Our bread and butter is gone. The ripple effect is going to be huge if they can’t find a way to reroute some of the Gaylord Opryland conferences and conventions to the downtown (Nashville) convention center.”
Gaylord CEO and Chairman Colin Reed confirmed Broyles time estimate, telling The Tennessean Wednesday that it could be three to six months before Opryland can open its doors to guests while he estimated that the damage to the resort is “well over $1 billion ” and well over the $50 million the hotel has in flood insurance.
Aleta Walther is a marketing communications professional and freelance writer with several years experience as a corporate exhibit manager. Contact Aleta at firstname.lastname@example.org.