Canceled conventions mean millions in lost revenue for Music City

Posted at 6:17 PM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 19:49:40-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — With 104 conventions canceled since March, the Music City Center has been left empty and without more than $425 million for Nashville and Davidson County.

That’s nearly 400,000 attendees who never made it to Nashville, never had a chance to spend money in restaurants, bars or stay in hotels.

“It’s a much deeper system of people impacted by what’s happened here, other than just the Music City Center or some of the hotels are sitting empty right now,” said Music City Center CEO Charles Starks.

Service industry jobs, while they’re returning, they're nowhere near where they once were at the height of convention season. Starks says those are lost wages and tips that could take months to replace.

In fact, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce August report on COVID-19's impact on Metro's economy found that the hospitality and leisure sector may not return to pre-COVID-19 employment until mid-2022.

If that wasn’t enough, the $1.8 million it takes to keep the lights on each month, makes it a little harder to see the bright side. Typically in any given month with conventions, MCC spends $3.6 million on operating expenses.

Starks says over the past several years, they’ve saved money they’ve generated from “tax streams dedicated to us from the hotel taxes.”

“With that surplus, we’ve been able to keep all of our staff on payroll,” he explained.

What Starks knows and what we’re just now learning is that those same groups who had to cancel are planning to come back.

“Every one of them have re-booked or are in the process of re-booking Nashville,” Starks said.

It may take some time, Starks says, to return to the convention center we once knew. Some groups who plan on returning are booked out as far as 2029. And that shows Starks that people want to come back to Nashville. If not now, soon enough.

Starks hopes to host smaller conventions depending on capacity limits, toward the end of 2020. Otherwise, they expect to host conventions as early as March.

In October, Metro Nashville council meetings will be held at MCC on the first and second Tuesdays of the month.

Back in April, the MCC was asked to be part of Tennessee’s emergency plan as COVID-19 cases began to surge. The facility was never utilized but remains part of emergency protocol.