It was announced this morning that Ryman Hospitality is embarking on a $12 million expansion of the Grand Ole Opry House to add parking, larger retail space and an enhanced area for backstage tours.
The investment continues the trend of Ryman Hospitality banking on Nashville's country music-fueled tourism industry. In the last three-plus years, the company as spent $14 million to expand and renovate the Ryman Auditorium, $8.6 million to renovate the Wildhorse Saloon and $20 million to overhaul the building that will be home to the Blake Shelton entertainment complex Ole Red. That's in addition to a $90 million water park under construction that the company hopes will attract more leisure tourists. And Ryman Hospitality isn't finished investing in live music in Nashville, CEO Colin Reed said.
The next big move by the company in the live music space could come in downtown, where Ryman owns a historic building on Second Avenue next door to the Wildhorse Saloon. "What we believe is going to happen here is we're going to continue to see a sure of people wanting to come to this town" Reed said.
The company has recent experience with a similar project. The Ryman Auditorium added retail space, a cafe and area for a virtual tour. Reed said that project is already paying dividends and gave Ryman Hospitality confidence in the Opry House renovation. The renovation is aimed at improving fan experience before fans take their seats inside the performance hall, which is not part of the renovation.
The Opry House reached 650.000 in attendance in 2016, up 150,000 in 2012. Tours attendance has risen by 100,000 over the same time frame. The building is bulking up its retail space to accommodate the steady flow of fans. And, Ryman Hospitality wants to improve the parking situation so the company plans to add 1.300 parking spaces on a paved lot replacing unused land. Fans will have a clear path to the Opry House. "So now people won't have to hunt around for parking," Reed said. The parking and retail space should be done by October 2018, to coincide with the opening of the SoundWaves water park and entertainment area housed inside the hotel. The details for a VIP lounge for backstage tours are still being finalized. The renovation will relocate the box office and make way for Ryman-owned food trucks, one of which is modeled after an artist tour bus.