Ryman Auditorium Opens After $14M Expansion Project

Posted at 7:00 PM, Jun 08, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -  After nearly a year of construction, the newly expanded and renovated Ryman Auditorium is open to visitors.

The $14 million project renovated all of the non-auditorium parts of the iconic music venue, and added a new restaurant called Cafe Lula.

"It was important to us that we improve that experience before guests walk into the tabernacle, to experience an concert or an event," said Sally Williams, the general manager of the Ryman.

The building now has new concession areas, new bars and new restrooms to help accommodate large concert crowds.

For daytime visitors, there is a new gift shop that has an outside entrance. The box office is also now located outside.

Cafe Lula is a nod to the venue's past. It's named after Lula C. Naff, who began working at the Ryman in 1904.

Another addition to the daytime tour is the Soul of Nashville theater. A multi-media production will chronicle the Ryman's history.

"This whole project will make sure that they understand where they've been. They'll never forget it, and every second will be special," said actor Chip Esten, who narrates a portion of the film.

The Soul of Nashville shows the vast array of music that has made the Ryman such an iconic venue.

"It's quite extraordinary to see the people who have stood on this stage of the Ryman over the 120 years, and I came away from it, feeling actually quite moved about what indeed our company is the custodian of, it's quite extraordinary," said Colin Reed, CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties.

There are also five new exhibits inside the auditorium visitors will be able to see during the tour.

The Ryman Auditorium was last renovated in 1994. That was the year it was saved from demolition after the building had fallen into disrepair.