A community forum held Sunday to discuss the pros and cons of a new downtown convention center likely won’t have much affect on a Metro Council vote on Tuesday to allocate $75 million to start the land acquisition phase of the project.
Even Metro Council members who say their minds are not made up on the project as a whole — such as at-large Councilwoman Megan Barry and District 7 Councilman Erik Cole, among others — say they will vote to allocate the funds.
The $75 million, which will be derived exclusively by tourism taxes and fees, will be allocated to the Metro Development and Housing Agency to begin purchasing the necessary 16 acres in SoBro for the Music City Center project.
The forum featured Dr. Heywood Sanders, the leading national expert on the public convention center business, and Butch Spyridon, the president of the Nashville Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Sanders cautioned the $635 million in tourism taxes could be better spent in other areas.
Cole and Barry said they were comfortable advancing the project forward.
“He raised good questions and it’s stuff we all have to be able to dig into and figure out,” Cole said. “What are the accurate performance numbers for this facility? And I’m not entirely sure we know that yet.
“I have committed on the land acquisition. I’m comfortable knowing what we know at this point with the process for the Council as it’s been laid out,” he added. “I think the [proposed public/private headquarters convention center hotel] is an enormous question.”
Barry said she was likely to “move the process along” on third reading, as she did on second reading in front of Council.
“I still do not believe that my vote on Tuesday is an affirmative vote for the convention center,” Barry said. “Regardless of what the advocates say.”
District 23 Councilwoman Emily Evans, who abstained from a vote on second reading, said she found Sanders’ presentation “very compelling.”
“I think the way he was able to compare the forecasts versus the reality, that is a very compelling warning for people who are going to have to make a commitment on this,” Evans said.