NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The enormous Music City Center hosted very few events in 2020, and in 2021 things were only marginally better.
So what does the enormous convention center expect in 2022?
"Our future bookings are strong," said Charles Starks, CEO and president of Music City Center. "But what we're also seeing is people are ready to get back to meetings, groups that haven't met in a couple years. So we're getting inquires from people that want to come three months from now."
According to Starks, the short-term looks just as good as the long-term. Additionally, Music City Center has events booked out to 2033 and proposals for events as far out as 2043.
"Our sales pace is as good as it's ever been. Trying to find space for customers is a bigger concern for us right now than finding customers, to some degree," Starks said.
The Music City Center just released its annual report for fiscal year 2021. It only hosted 40 events between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, which was the height of COVID-19 pandemic closures. The event count is an 84% drop from the venue's best numbers in FY 2019.
"When we look at it, we're disappointed we didn't have a better year, but I would think every industry in the city is feeling that way," Starks said.
Why is it good for Nashville to have a busy Music City Center? Well, it could be the largest, standalone venue driving visitors to the city.
"It has a huge impact and it was very strategic when it was built," said Eric Johnson, dean of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management. "It put Nashville on the map in the business community. So many of the events they host are really large events, now maybe a dozen cities in the U.S. could regularly host, and Nashville became part of that club when Music City Center was built."
A far from full Music City Center in FY 2021 also meant the direct economic impact was dramatically lower than in previous years. Only $49.2 million went back into the Nashville economy, compared to compared $301 million in FY 2020 and $439 million in FY 2019.
Those in the business world say Music City Center can help itself rebound by staying open-minded.
"When you think about their business, maybe their core business is really large events, but you have to be happy with any event they're getting right now," Johnson said. "I think that will drive them to be more agile and flexible in terms of their business."