Let's talk about the convention center

Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 12:00am
Megan Barry

With a final Metro Council vote on land acquisition for a new downtown convention center coming up next week, there’s quite a bit of momentum right now behind the project, and among its supporters there’s quite a bit of excitement.

What there isn’t, unfortunately, is much of a serious and substantive debate about whether this massive public investment — more than $600 million by current estimates — is a good thing for Nashville’s future.

Political and business leaders backing the Music City Center project are out there talking up its potential economic benefits for tourism, jobs, and downtown development. That’s all well and good, but a campaign to generate enthusiasm and win support is not the same as a robust debate on the merits of the thing — not just as an engine of tourism, but as a strategy for civic and economic development in the city’s core.

That’s why several Metro Council colleagues and I, along with the vice mayor, are sponsoring a free public forum from 2-4 p.m. Sunday afternoon at the Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. Parking is also free.

Butch Spyridon, an advocate for the project who heads the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, has agreed to participate.

The forum will also feature Professor Heywood Sanders of the University of Texas at San Antonio, a leading expert on urban development whose published work is highly critical of the analysis and policy making that leads many cities to expand convention centers. His 2005 report for the Washington-based Brookings Institution, “Space Available: The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy,” is frequently cited in convention center controversies (the report is online at http://doiop.com/sanders).

Sanders is coming to Nashville and to the forum on Sunday to share his perspective, and to share a “stage” of sorts with Butch Spyridon, for a spirited discussion of the pros and cons of the Music City Center project.

Some backers of the project have asserted that we’ve had enough discussion — several years’ worth — and it’s time to get on with it. But the reality is that we’ve had a lot more inevitability than inquiry.

Is a new convention center the best use of public resources? Are optimistic projections about its economic viability and impact realistic? Perhaps Sunday’s forum will help focus our attention on these and other crucial questions about this important project.

Regardless of which side you’re on in this debate, Sunday’s event promises to provide important public discourse on Nashville’s future.


Barry is a member at-large of the Metro Council.

44 Comments on this post:

By: martindkennedy on 5/28/09 at 2:38

I think that should be "more than $600 million."

Still an amount that demands a REAL hard look with respect to the plausibility of revenue projections and the ability to pay off the bonds.

By: idgaf on 5/28/09 at 3:00

They keep leaving out the 300 plus million for the hotel too which we have no business building either.

Think about that , if a hotel won't build their own hotel how good can this turkey be?

By: Captain Nemo on 5/28/09 at 5:03

If id is against this, then it must be a good thing.

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 6:35

You will never get a concensous on this project as ther will always be those in favor of tourism as an economic stimulus and those opposed. Neither side is wrong but to say that proponents of this project provide skewed numbers in their analysis and then bring in Dr, Heywood to show the flip side of the equation is humorous at best. Dr. Heywood used the years 2001 to 2003 as his bakdrop for analyzing the numbers which just happened to be the worst 2 years for the industry since the recession of 1972. With 9/11 as a backdrop, of course his numbers are going to reflect a slippage in attendance. He did not nor has he since acknowledge any growth (which has happened) since that time. He also used only 1 publication (tradeshow weekly) as his basis for information and then he only looked at the top 200 shows which is 4% of the shows reported on by that publication alone. He goes on in his report to state that information is hard to find and the data he uses is unclear and vague. So exactly how is he an "expert" in this area? There will be no more clear understanding after this event than there is now, but certain Councill memebers will boost their public profile and I guess that is the bigger issue for them.

By: 2476 on 5/28/09 at 7:36

If Capnemo is for it we need to be against it.

By: Captain Nemo on 5/28/09 at 7:44

If 2476 post the world laughs.

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 7:51

Meeting attendance is smaller now than in 1995. That is in his report. So it is a lie that Dr. Sanders only used data from a brief time in earlier in the decade. It is also a fact that supply of space exceeds the meeting demand. It is also a fact that the meeting industry does not provide easily attainable meeting numbers in order to avoid honest analysis. The state of Washington got it right when they asked for facts and guarantees from center expansion proponents. I am sorry that our taxpayer-paid flak at McNeely Piggott & Fox haven't allowed the local press friends to analyze the results from other cities.

I don't think that the Tennessean and Wsmv have even mentioned this debate.

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 8:05

JeffF,
He does not update his report monthly, yearly, or otherwise. It was released in 2005 and used data from previous years. did you read it? Did you bother to read any of the rebuttal information? There is always two sides to every story. Do you think it is possible he only used what information was needed to make his case? You should know you can do anything with numbers, and either side can make their argument using only the datat they want you to see. The bottom line is you are either a proponent of tourism or you are not. All this BS about tourism failing is nonsense. Even Dr. Sanders admits that their are cities who can dow well with tourism and those that shouldnot be in the game. Nashville is one that does well and has a proven track record. Other cities you like to cite like Knoxville are ones that should not be playing tis game. Here is a brief excerpt from one of the rebuttals:
"Sanders looked at the years from 2001 to 2003, and it's true there was a decline from 2001 to 2002 in most metrics," says Tom Hazinski, managing director of the Chicago office of hospitality consultancy HVS International and the author of a 2005 paper that was highly critical of Sanders' research. "But 2002 to 2003 was a mixed bag, and in 2003 and 2004, all measures grew. We've now seen two years of growth in all measures of the exhibition industry." Adds Hazinski, "I can't imagine how Sanders can defend his argument. The data don't support it."

Sanders, however, has no difficulty finding recent data to corroborate his views. The 2006 Index released by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) in Dallas, he notes, shows that exhibition attendance increased by only one percent from 2004 to 2005. Meanwhile, the amount of exhibit space rose 24 percent over that same period, according to Tradeshow Week's Major Exhibit Hall Directory. Sanders dismisses more substantial increases in other CEIR metrics, such as the number of exhibiting companies or the amount of net square footage sold. "The issue cities face when talking about economic impact is attendance," he says. "It's about the interrelationship between supply and demand: Everyone is getting a smaller share of the pie. If Las Vegas succeeds [in getting convention business], it'll be at the expense of other cities."

Arguments about the numbers are literally endless, and often mind-numbing. For example, Sanders is routinely excoriated for relying heavily on data from the Tradeshow Week 200, an annual list of the largest exhibitions in the country. "That list isn't representative. It's only indicative of the biggest shows taking place in maybe a dozen facilities across the country," says Robert Canton, director of PricewaterhouseCoopers' convention and tourism practice in Tampa, FL, who also wrote a paper criticizing Sanders' work. "How can you base an analysis on the Tradeshow Week 200 when the events aren't the same from year to year?" Mary Power, president and CEO of the Convention Industry Council in Washington D.C., agrees: "It's like saying that if the top 200 companies in America aren't doing well, all of corporate America isn't doing well. A lot of the growth is in the up-and-coming shows." Hazinski of HVS International goes even further: "He used the Tradeshow Week 200 numbers because they suited his purposes best."

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 8:14

Here is some more:

Sanders, however, admits at the beginning of his paper that there are legitimate questions about the numbers he cites. He devotes an entire page to a discussion of the lack of reliable data for conventions and trade shows, where he claims that while the "200" list "does not index the larger industry in any sense," it provides "a plausible starting point for examining trends in market demand." And the "200" list is hardly his only evidence, as he frequently cites data from convention and visitor bureaus, individual buildings, and other industry sources.
Things get complicated when Sanders starts picking apart the very sources he uses as evidence. For instance, why does he cite the CEIR Index and its one- percent rise in attendance instead of the most recent data from the Tradeshow Week 200, which found a 3.5-percent increase? "If you actually compare total attendance figures year to year from the Tradeshow Week 200, they don't show an increase," he counters. "According to the '200,' the cumulative attendance increase from 2002 to 2005 was about 10 percent. But if you look at the total reported attendance numbers, they actually went down"—from a little over 4.2 million in 2002 to 4.16 million last year. "Somehow, they've reported positive increases of almost 10 percent, yet the total attendance has gone down!"

Think he uses what he needs to make his point?

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 8:34

Dude, Sanders has released 3 updates to the report and they all show the same thing. And you are still guilty of bringin tourism into an argument it does not belong. This is about conventionc and meetings, not tourism. If you want to use tourism to justify convention center expansion then we should just send out money to Gatlinburg for a larger center and hotel there.

By the way it was the HVS people who had their integrity called into question in Washington.

And just for curiosity, the new and improved white elephant will bring us up to competing for 80% of the shows out there (the big ones). Those would be the Tradeshow Week 200 right?

And Price Waterhouse was the firm that admitted they rosy up the numbers in their consultant works because you don't get paid to be honest in this game.

In summation, you cite two works by not academics. They are two of the three consultants who eat up most of the work tourism people use as their goto to get numbers they NEED. A neutral Dr. Sanders attacked the consulting and research work of three revenue dependent (nonneutral) "experts". They are in no position to dispute the results of a noted researcher. Go find some numbers not coming from a position of bias and you may have an argument. Maybe a professor on your campus can give you something to go on?

What scares you about Dr. Sanders speaking in Nashville? Is it his research and learning or the fact he does not toe the line of MPF?

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 8:40

A published scholarly paper(not generating income for the organization or researcher) vs "consultant" report from people who admit they would not get hired if they were honest?

Hmmm, tough choice.

Maybe Spyridon can tell us where those 36,000 new jobs will be. Yes a facility that CAN be used by only one large group a week will create enough NEW jobs to fill Smryna. I can't believe someone at MPF thought that absurd of a claim should be put on the website. All that tax money must of gone to the empty head of yet another untalented ex-journalist.

By: pandabear on 5/28/09 at 8:57

producer:

Where are all the glowing numbers that show the convention center
is a great idea ?

If it's such a "no brainer", then why the debate ?

You should just show us the "awesome" facts and we'll all
thank you for making Nashville such a better place to live.

In the meantime, thanks for all the empty words, but if I
need some manure for my garden, I'll go get the clean stuff.

By: pandabear on 5/28/09 at 9:01

Nemo:
id is accidently right this time.

One of the proofs is this "producer" guy who's an obvious
plant by the "let's build it and who cares if they come" crowd.

The builders, lawyers and land swindlers are the only ones
who will make money on this.

By: pandabear on 5/28/09 at 9:09

Oh, and one more thing.

The figure is $635 million, which does NOT include the hotel.

As with all construction these days, it will cost well over
$1 Billion before it's done, and once again, this does NOT
include the hotel.

One Billion is equal to 1000 million dollars.

No small figure for a large city like New York or L.A.

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 9:23

JeffF,
Please stop with the neutral party stuff. Sanders is an author that sells books on the subject as well as getting paid to be a "consultant" for the oposition. As I suspected unless the info comes from someone you are backing it is deemed faulty and illegitimite. Do any of these look familiar?

The Politics of Urban Development
by Clarence N. N. Stone, Clarence N. N. Stone, Heywood T. Sanders, Heywood T. Sanders (Editor)
Urban Texas: Politics and Development
by Char Miller (Editor), Heywood T. Sanders (Editor)

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 9:35

pandabear,
this is way over your head, find another argument. Statements like those above show your lack of understanding about hte subject. No project is without it's critics as it should be, even this one. To not know anything about the funding, or potential for monetary gain just shows your lack of responsible reasearch before you open your mouth.

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 9:43

"Maybe Spyridon can tell us where those 36,000 new jobs will be. Yes a facility that CAN be used by only one large group a week will create enough NEW jobs to fill Smryna. I can't believe someone at MPF thought that absurd of a claim should be put on the website. All that tax money must of gone to the empty head of yet another untalented ex-journalist."

What is your point? First you have no working knowledge of this industry as you state only one group a week can use it. Actually it will be capable of handling 3 or 4 groups a week depending on their needs and how many room nights they are generating. But that would be over your head to comprehend. Your continued sniping at MPF is laughable. They will not respond to you so maybe you feel safe in taking swipes at them. Over the past few months I have watched you find a talking point and beat it to death. Then when it is either rebutted, or in the case of the latest vote in Dallas that passed, your side loses, you simply move on to the next thing that you think will create a new talking point for your opposition. You and the teflon professor are a lot alike, nothing (not even facts) will sway you from your position. I am sure the opposition party is proud to have you on their side. See you Sunday!

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 10:34

I am concerned that you think Dr. Sanders textbooks are about the destruction of convention centers. That is a symptom of a fractured mind.

The study of the convention industry was paid for by the Brookings Institute. Sanders job is professor at the University of Texas San Antonio. Tenured professors publish research. HE did a good job taking a position counter to that of the meetings industry dependent on public money for their very survival.

As I mentioned the other day (you were out I guess) would Nashville leaders been so quick to "invest" in the current center if they knew the same group would be proposing throwing it away after it was paid for in order to get MORE money to build another one? An "investment" in a business comes with the expectation that eventually that business will no longer require additional investments to keep going. Businesses that require a perpetual influx of investment are the definition of LOSER. Sorry but the convention industry because is a loser. It has never, ever, ever paid its own way, relying entirely on the taxes from tourists and residents to build its infrastructure and even finance its operations. At no point has the current convention paid its own way. It only shows in the black on its construction when including the millions of hotel/motel and rental car tax dollars from non-users of the center. Now people will lie and say all those tourists are here because of the center but we all know people who say that are economically and mentally retarded and are only trying to ensure that have their future turns on the money tet.

Nashville has invested in the convention industry. And invested. And invested. And Invested. And invested. And Invested. And Invested. Now it is being asked to invest again. Seems like someone would have the sense to quit using the word "invest" and starts calling it what it truly is, industrial welfare. An investment would be to put the money into an industry that actually stands a chance of succeeding on its own and actually is not the lowest paying with the largest percentage of employees on food stamps. Even the owners of the Predators are not going to invest new money into the team forever without seeing any returns. Every slot machine pays off eventually. When will the public convention center pay off and cover its investments?

Right now we are only given tourism numbers and the dubious economic impact estimates that assumes everyone in town brings another person with them and they eat every meal out and spend $200 night on hotel. Of course that is a lot of food considering most meetings include at least one meal every day in the center and not in the community. It also assumes that every person entering the building is from out of town and used two hotel nights just to get there. Don't even get me started on estimating employment increases in an industry notorious for having 75-80% of its employees being part-time and benefit free. (We would get better employment results giving the money to WalMart to open a bunch of new stores)

This is all about opportunity costs. We can invest this tax money into something with zero chance of return or invest it in the city itself. Why be a convention center loser just like every other U.S. city suckered into this by faulty consultant reports and frustrated meeting planners? Lets be the city that examined the market and say "hey we choose not to get into the morass other cities are in and we respect our citizens enough to do the things government is supposed to be doing".

The largest number of meeting are medical in nature. What happens to those meetings when a private center opens focused entirely on that segment? What happens when three of them open in Nashville, Cleveland, and New York? Are backers not the least bit interested in revising the numbers to show a loss of all those meetings? Sit back and let private money do its thing and don't compete with private interests with public money.

By: skybolt on 5/28/09 at 10:45

And how many of you will be at the meeting? Why not go and get your information there, ask your questions, let your voices be heard. It's just like voting -- if you don't vote, you have no right to complain about the outcome!

By: Anna3 on 5/28/09 at 11:04

Can you believe the people that are supporting the spending of ONE BILLION DOLLARS for facilities that once they are completed...must compete with Las Vegas... a city GIVING AWAY its convention space FREE... so it can generate gambling revenue? Yep...Nashville is being LED by Mayor Karl Dean to spend a BILLION DOLLARS to compete with FREE! What a bunch of crooks! Some of these guys such as Captain Nemo have got to be working for the Nashville AREA Chamber of Commerce! The ONLY AREA the Nashville Chamber has targeted as an economic growth opportunity in the past decade....is my purse! We MUST have new leadership in this city...and soon!

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 11:21

By your estimation, every city in the World is suffereing losses by competing for meetings and conventions. Are we all so ignorant that only you and the good professor see that this is an impossibility? You continue to say that if we invest this tax money in something else we would be better off. How would you propose to invest money that is obtained by folks coming to the city for meetings when you want to close down that segment of the industry? You continue to show a lack of knowledge about how the meetings industry in Nashville is currently working. For example your statement about medical being the largest segment could not be further from the truth. In order the current annual average room night demand segments are:
Business-trade
Corporate
Education
Religous
Government
Engi-Sci
Medical
and so on...

So you see 7th on the list is not anywhere near your statement of first on the list. Now I am sure increasing that segment would be great and I hope they do, but it is not what makes the engine run.

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 11:33

I actually do not think the thing is going to be open for questions is it? Go, but don't expect to get to ask a question. Also do not expect to see more than 4 elected officials in the room. I would imaging that proponents will all be dressed the same or have some matching buttons printed up by MFP.

Can I get a couple of million dollars in tax money so I can fund a PR firm to fight against this?

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 11:37

room night demand? Faulty stat. Look at the number of meetings since room night demand is a bogus stat of zero actual integrity. Numbers that are estimates like room night demand are far inferior to stats that are measurable like number of meetings or number of registered guests.

Business Trade is a joke since that includes events that pull in large number of locals. How they can get a room night estimate from that is laughable. What was the room night demand for the car show last year?

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 11:54

Why do you make such ludicrous statements? It is beyond me. Do you know how that number (room night demand) is generated? Obviously not so let me share. It is generated by groups actually asking (with a written RFP) for a bid to have their meeting in Nashville. That is why it is called room night demand. Now the list is essentially the same for room nights confirmed but obviously as usual you deflect since your original statement was shown to be false. The room night demand from any event will be listed on the RFP. When groups actually sign to come to a city they are responsible for the number of room nights they contract for. Do you know ANYTHING about this industry?

By: pandabear on 5/28/09 at 12:24

producer:
More yakaty yak and no facts.

You use up a lot of words and still you say nothing.

You don't back up anything you say with a fact.

The only thing you know is how to collect a check from your local lobby.

I notice you never answer this fact:

Convention centers have been losing money nationally for the last 10 years.

By: pandabear on 5/28/09 at 12:27

"By: Anna3 on 5/28/09 at 11:04
Can you believe the people that are supporting the spending of ONE BILLION DOLLARS for facilities that once they are completed...must compete with Las Vegas... a city GIVING AWAY its convention space FREE... so it can generate gambling revenue? Yep...Nashville is being LED by Mayor Karl Dean to spend a BILLION DOLLARS to compete with FREE! What a bunch of crooks! Some of these guys such as Captain Nemo have got to be working for the Nashville AREA Chamber of Commerce! The ONLY AREA the Nashville Chamber has targeted as an economic growth opportunity in the past decade....is my purse! We MUST have new leadership in this city...and soon!"

Captain Nemo ???

try producer

By: idgaf on 5/28/09 at 12:30

ONE BILLION DOLLARS

Thats all I have to see to think the taxpayers should not be at risk anyway.

Why do you trust Morons with no experience in this sort of thing just because you elected the?

Look at the TRILLIONS barry spent with nothing to show for it.

People are really gullible in this country.

Remember all the mines we were promised and the shafts we really got?

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 1:17

pandabear,
I will respond to anything that is given in a factual context. To say convention centers have been losing money for 10 years gives the reader no basis in fact for that statement. Are they all losing money? Are some losing money? Which ones are losing money. Are you talking about operational costs or how much revenue the centers bring into the city via hotel rooms, etc. Is it about the center or the industry? Give me something to go on here.....

By: dnewton on 5/28/09 at 1:45

I think there is a Golden Rule problem here in that most people would not spend their own money on this venture, if they had it. This Convention Center will probably be a toxic asset. A toxic asset used to be a loan that was issued to a person who could not make the payments. I don't see why a toxic asset can be any burdensome debt or obligation. Metro can make the payments but only by eliminating other things that also cost money.

The reason the numbers seem to be endless is because they involve predictions of the future and I think there are a lot of predictions that were made last year that some folks would like to take back now. If toxic assets are bad and bad for the economy, I don't see why anybody would want to produce some more. Another reason the numbers seem to be endless is because of the pattern of supporting the project from non-users. Some people renting cars will be convention goers, some will not. Some utility costs will be borne by the user, some will not. The whole county will be in some way be co-signing this loan and assuring that all of the unanticipated costs are going to be covered.

Even before the current economic situation, the track record of convention centers is one of buyers(taxpayers) remorse. I am sure that a small slice of people made out like a mad dog in a meat house in spite of all of the miscalculations but , a good project should minimize the losers, not maximize the losers. Some convention centers can run at full capacity and still lose money. The past may not predict the future but the pattern of selling the convention center and its promises seems to be identical. Sometimes the past does predict the future. Davidson County is already carrying either the largest or next largest per capita debt in the 95 counties of Tennessee. A failure of this convention center could endanger the ability to borrow at good rates and hurt every legitimate government function that is going on.

Has anyone tried getting money from Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae for this? Maybe Barney Frank can cajole them into spending money on this like he did the home loans for people who had no way to pay for it. That was one of those no-brainer ideas that was going to be good for the economy too.

Nothing is more amazing to me on this subject nearly all skepticism and critical thinking seems to melt at the claim of a project being for economic development. Wishful thinking rushes in and sits at the rightful place of logical analysis. Belief solidifies around a curious phenomenon of hoping in other people's hope.

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 2:30

Again another post with no factual backup. You say it is not a good idea to rely on future predictions yet you are making your own. There is history to go on here but no one wants to recognize it. When the historical, factual numbers are brought out, many here want to say that they are not valid or have been inflated, whatever. The fact is they are the ONLY numbers that have any factual relevance and proof of what can be accomplished. Everything else is assumptive. Go figure....

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 2:38

Sorry meant to answer this question earlier...

"And just for curiosity, the new and improved white elephant will bring us up to competing for 80% of the shows out there (the big ones). Those would be the Tradeshow Week 200 right?"

No, Nashville is not on the list size wise for any of those top 200, but we would be available to the other 4600 that Sanders does not use as data but were reported to TradeShow Week. The top 200 take more than the 375,000 square feet we are going to build. But by the same token, only about 500 of them were available to us in the current facility.

By: MamaG on 5/28/09 at 3:04

1.) What will happen to the 'old' convention center?
2.) Are taxpayer dollars paying for the 'new' convention center? If so,
3.) How can Mayor Dean justify this expense?

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 3:28

This is a research piece that everyone should read. It explains the purposes of Revenue Bonds perfectly as well as the habbit of cities to use separately chartered organizations like MDHA and convention center management boards to do things like this.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa028.html

I looked this up when I saw the Dallas mayor begging congress to do something about the outrageous interest rate demands on revenue bonds. Apparently the need to pay back what is owed with operation revenues is really put a crimp into the building of his dream half billion dollar convention hotel.

BTW Producer, still not showing me a stat that counts the actual hotel rooms paid for, just a figure of contracted room nights. Quit using make-believe numbers and start using verifiable ones. Just because a convention says 1000 room nights doesn't mean they actually paid-for and used 1000 room nights. I suspect you already knew that though and were counting on us rubes not knowing. They can contract for a billion room nights and there is nothing to hold them to actually put people in rooms for a billion nights.

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 3:35

Okay Producer name a single publicly built convention center that paid for itself and every single dime of its operations. You can even go half way and name one that just paid for its own building and equipment. Please number the list so it will be easier to count, it is too easy to lose count on a bullet list.

Be sure to just list the ones that did not receive money from hotel and rental car users not in town for conventions, that would be dishonest. Also refrain from economic impact numbers since those are non-factual estimates with zero basis in reality.

I will start the list for you:

1.)

By: dnewton on 5/28/09 at 3:56

People make future predictions all of the time. I am not against that. The federal government requires future predictions by their agencies about such things as interest rates and inflation before forming a program or policy. The risk of a bad decision is often exposed by putting together scenarios that act like goal posts with the worst case scenario and the best case scenario being upper and lower base lines. Any scenario that contains all pessimistic estimates or all optimistic estimates is highly likely to be wrong. This project should be stress tested with a hybrid economic model of many scenarios just as the banks had to go through.

I think the convention business is a lot like the car business. We have too much spare manufacturing capacity with respect to autos. Nationally, we have too much convention center space. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU COULD NOT BUILD YOUR OWN CUSTOM BUILT FACTORY/CONVENTION CENTER AND MAKE MONEY. However you would have to have a small niche market. That is not happening, Davidson County is taking the same advice that everyone else is taking: GO AFTER THE BIG FISH. My problem is that both Nashville and the auto companies don't plan to make money, but run under the wings of the government. The current theory is that we must build more space for specially sized conventions. This mirrors the idea that we must build specially sized autos even if they cost more and decrease safety because of jobs,jobs, jobs and economic development. The mean time before auto replacement is increasing which is similar to the total number of days consumed per convention visit declining. The answer in both cases is to get the government involved to absorb the losses.

The car manufacturer's got into trouble with legacy costs because they were eternally optimistic about their ability to push the unanticipated cost onto the bext buyer. The fact that big shots with pencils in their pockets were constantly telling them that would work seemed to turn off skepticism. The next convention center is always the sivler bullet that kills all of the problems that were unanticipated the last time. After getting a lot of experience at managing or mismanaging a problem, it seems that undue confidence abounds, especially if there is a background anticipation that you are too big to fail.

This convention center will not break Davidson County but it sould stunt its growth a little bit. Taxpayer money going into the project only lowers the average disposable income. Speaking of disposable income, Professor Sanders information will be a few years off because it takes two years for economic data to go from preliminary to final. A report in 2007 can have only government data from 2005.

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 4:03

The current center was paid off EARLY using the same funding mechanism in place for the MCC. No taxpayer in Davidson Co. had any of their personal tax money go to fund the building of this facility. The operating costs were and are paid out of the same fund so again no taxpayer funds are being used.

Your scenario is not plausible, therefore I am sure it works for you. Kind of like how Heywood Sanders picks and chooses his data to fit what he wants to convey. What is dishonest about using hotel/motel tax funds from people not in town for a vacation or a meeting? I still get charged for garbage pickup at a vacation home that I never use the service. Is that fair? I still pay for your kids to go to school even though I don't have any, is that fair? My taxes go to pay for idiots who vote to take guns into bars or make English Only a nonsensical and costly ballot inititive, is that fair? I even have to listen to Metro Council members drone on about not using taxpayer money when they in fact have not paid their own taxes, is that fair?
As far as your discussion on room nights, again you are mistaken. Every meeting that comes to town has a contract for those room nights that are verifiable. If they do not pick up (that would be buy for you laymen) those rooms they are still liable for them based upon whatever arrangement the hotel has worked out with their clients. So in essence the hotels are still getting paid which means they are still collecting taxes and paying money into the various funds (including the General Fund). There have been many a large attrittion clause paid for by groups all over the US this year. It happens....

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 4:10

dnewton,
You are wrong about Nashville going after the big fish. If that were true they would build a center with a minimum of 1 million square feet on the exhibit floor. Nashville is simply trying to go after the clients they know they can book and can not currently come becauseof the ridiculously small size of our facility. 375,000 square feet of space and about 3500 hotel rooms will not get you the big fish, but it will open up a potential "niche market" for another 60% or so of the available business you would not otherwise be in contention for. Car manufactureres got in trouble because of the huge costs of their pension funds and their unwillingness to change. Those who could forsee the future and were willing to go there will be just fine and need no bailout money. That is the simple fact.

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 4:30

I see you didn't list any centers which paid for itself so I will assume there are none. Go attempt at a redirection though, it almost looked factual there for a second.

I am a taxpayer and I remember paying taxes that paid off the debt for the convention center. That money seemed personal but if you claim it as yours I am sure it wasn't personal money going toward those rental cars and hotel rooms. It sure showed up on my credit card statement like a personal expense though. Don't remember anyone else paying for those things.

Same fund? Lets see operations expenses for the convention center were paid directly by taxpayers when special revenue income was not enough to meet both operand debt service. Plus the metro taxpayer paid for employee benefits and on-site infrastructure expenses. Also the personal expenses I have just been told I did not pay also went toward operations and capital expenses. You weren't just lying once, you managed to lie twice with one statement. That is like what Richard Pryor did in Superman III with a computer program, two things at once.

Please quit muddying the water. You would be better served admitting that these things never pay their own way. I even gave you a chance to do so but you elected to use that old chestnut of unrelated tax revenue equals operating revenue. Then you made it worse by saying none of paid those taxes.

Was there not some sort of math or civics prerequisite in journalism school?

But as it stands this center will be back burnered shortly after land acquisition is approved and commences. They cannot be the revenue bonds necessary to hide this off books with MDHA and they certainly do not want this to go with general obligation bonds since there is no way it will get approved.

See everyone at the meeting Sunday. I will be in the parking lot across the street noting the license plates of the supporters (they will probably all be dressed the same). I expect to see quite a few Williamson countians disguised as concerned Davidson hotel workers and meeting planners. They could rent cars to hide but that would mean they were paying for their own center and they surely don't want to do that.

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 4:33

Actually going from 20% to 80% is a 300% increase not a 60% increase. Saying 60% makes this expansion look reasonable and that would be dishonest since 300% is far from reasonable.

They really didn't require math in journalism school did they?

By: JeffF on 5/28/09 at 4:43

Do the convention promisers (the consultants) even say that the 300% increase will be met with a 300% increase in real traffic. Nope they did not get roped into that one. They could have been pinned since most cities expanding by this amount only saw at most two to three percent increase (far less than 300%). Sadly a good number actually saw reduction in actual traffic.

See traffic is a verifiable number since people that show up can be counted. Room nights is not verifiable statistic since no one counts to make sure the rooms have actually been booked and paid for.

Did you notice that someone is hosting a convention meeting and it is not being held at a room at an actual convention center. How did that happen?

The real question is will MPF be able to get all their employees out to fill most of the seats at the small recital room it is being held in. They have been able to do so at the mid-afternoon "information" meetings but a pretty Sunday afternoon combined with interested citizens could lead to some actual competition. They will stand out since they will all be white and in their 20's. Plus the math, statistics, and factual research from a Harvard educated college professor may confuse their journalism trained minds and they may pass out into the aisles.

By: producer2 on 5/28/09 at 5:44

I did answer your question, as usual you don't like the answer. We are finished with this discusssion because you have nothing to add to it. See you Sunday....

By: dnewton on 5/28/09 at 6:36

Car manufacturer's bet that their annual productivity could outpace health care cost and they lost that bet. Service industry productivity has always lagged industrial productivity. This is a minor difference between the car comany mess and the convention center mess.

No one so far has mentioned that there are other convention facilities in the area that would be impacted by a rousing success. This problem is very difficult to model because of the temptation to count the hits and ignore the misses. These facilities would, in effect, be financing their competitor.

It would be a nightmare to list the government owned facilitie that actually pay for themselves. Several years ago, Overland Park, Kansas claimed that they were doing OK but prizing out the incomes and the outgoes is a very rough game of hid-the-salami for the amature, non-accountant. They attributed their good outcome to ignoring advice to expand to the reccomended square footage. Not all cities are as open about their finances as Nashville. The last time I checked there were at least 6 other functions that the motel tax was trying to support.

I think the tax remedies to make the user pay more would damage the current rate of usage. With no Convention Center, we don;t have to worry about other cities frantically trying to take our piece of the pie and we dont have to worry about our piece of the pie not being big enough to pay the freight. The areas of the country that have the best record for conventions have the lowests overall costs. Increasing the cost of every activity from the airport to the motel room and back again is not the way to go.

I can't make this meeting but, I would really like to be there. In the near future there will be a certain mini-boom is school populations. There is also an aging populations and people like me might decide to just vote with our feet and leave Nashville as we make retirement plans. This Convention center could be a very big mistake, Davidson county has, in the last ten years, experienced a population dip but has recovered. An environment that makes people the constant target of new taxation for stuff they don't need or don't even use is not a smart as you think.

With Obamageddon just over the horizon, building this facility seems a lot like selling lawn mowers in the city of Atlantis.

By: idgaf on 5/28/09 at 10:11

Vegas one of two CC's that are makeing money had 400 cancellations.

Nuff said unless you are a moron.

By: willtw on 6/1/09 at 8:13

Absolute, sheer, ridiculous (not enough words to define this fiasco) conjured up by politicians....Build an almost $1 billion dollar "white elephant near the Cumberland" is too much to bear!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go to Washington and join BHO! In a severe recession, Nashville does not need another structure to act as a monument to politicians! Only a carpetbagger would promote such expenditures in these times....NO TO THE CONVENTION CENTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!