Music City Center and Bridgestone Arena are examples of Nashville creating a vision and executing it well. A new Titans stadium can do the same.

  • Bo Roberts is a Nashville-based marketing consultant, is associated with the Nashville Sports Council and the Music City Bowl, and the author of the recently released book “Forever Young.”

In the last 25 years, two seismic waves of historic change swept through our city, collectively giving us the Nashville of today — the 2.0.22 version.  Another wave is now quickly rolling forward, ready to break onto our shores. Think of it as a wall of monumental opportunity.

It’s a chance to fully revamp and refine the entire East Bank of our city; to completely re-imagine a part of downtown Nashville that has rarely been the focus of much creative energy or planning expertise.

With the advent of a climate-controlled, state-of-the-art sports facility as its anchor, the East Bank’s “Cinderella” moment could finally be arriving.

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How the Tennessee Titans ownership fits in

With the possibility of a new stadium, the obvious elephants in the development room are the Tennessee Titans and owner representative Amy Adams Strunk. She has fully embraced her ownership role, loosened the team’s purse strings and become a highly visible part of the Nashville and Tennessee communities.

The team’s leadership has partnered with Mayor John Cooper in proposing innovative solutions to a looming issue, while recommending exciting possibilities for both the facility and the region.

Frankly, this enlightened approach would not have happened in the older traditional ways most NFL owners conducted business. I, and many others, are greatly impressed with the plan outlined by Titans’ President Burke Nihill, the prime presenter of a plan that will swing doors wide for a multitude of appealing prospects. Thank you, Amy, for opening those doors.

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Music City Center was the last “largest’ public project

At more than $2.1 billion, the new stadium under consideration would represent the largest public endeavor ever undertaken in Tennessee. Meanwhile, there’s much to learn by reviewing the last significant project here that carried that “historic” label: the Music City Center.

Following Metro Council’s approval in 2010, this standout venue opened for business in 2013.

There were countless doubters 12 years ago when Metro Council debated a $600 million price tag for a convention center located in a less-than-pristine area of downtown. Following his 2007 election as mayor, Karl Dean and his staff dove head-first into the myriad plans and projections, before going all in to spearhead “this major investment” in Nashville’s future.

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Bridgestone Arena started the ball rolling

Dean’s gigantic step came more than a decade after then-Mayor Phil Bredesen initiated plans for a downtown entertainment and sports arena, fostering a new Hilton Hotel, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and, ultimately, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Bredesen’s investment  paid enormous dividends, particularly after the Nashville Predator’s local ownership recruited a first-rank management team led by Sean Henry.

The partnership between the Nashville Sports Authority (the arena’s public landlord) and Henry transformed the arena into one of the finest, top-performing entertainment venues in the world.

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Music City Center blew the doors off

How could the Music Center follow that incredible feat? In step with the tourism industry, MCC president and CEO Charles Stark and his staff quickly had the center operating at capacity, one of the few such facilities turning an operating profit in the U.S. Additionally, throughout the pandemic, when business had vanished, they retained their employees at full pay, and carved out more than $113 million for Metro Government to assist in addressing citizens’ needs during those most challenging times.

The success stories about the space-strained MCC go on and on, but let me sum it up in one additional (to me startling) sentence:  When the MCC opened its doors for conventions in 2013, the number of hotel rooms available within their convention footprint was 3,900; that total reached more than 15,000 last month after more than 2200 conventions, 4.2 million unique attendees and a phenomenal $3 billion in economic impact!

This is why I, and scores of others, are encouraging Metro Council members to do their due diligence, while keeping their eyes on the actual overall costs amid the positive opportunities that will emerge.  Council should consider the unprecedented $500 million appropriation from the state (thanks to Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, House Speaker Cameron Sexton and the General Assembly). All of that and with this major step forward the funding burden will be placed on stadium users and visitors, rather than Davidson County’s taxpayers.

And forward, this time, means attracting top-tier events like the Super Bowl, the Final Four, college playoff games, major championships and all-weather concerts and events, while simultaneously providing citizens with a vastly superior quality of life on our East Bank. Nashville’s recent history with these kinds of undertakings should give us extraordinary confidence in our ability to forge our future.

Bo Roberts is a Nashville-based marketing consultant, is associated with the Nashville Sports Council and the Music City Bowl, and the author of the recently released book “Forever Young.”