Friday, May 29, 2009

Nashville convention center debate set for Sunday

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • May 29, 2009 The chief cheerleader for Nashville's proposed convention center and a longtime critic of cities' convention space expansions will debate each other Sunday afternoon. Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Heywood Sanders, professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio, will appear at the Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music, 2400 Blakemore Ave. The forum starts at 2 p.m. Spyridon says Nashville is missing out on many big conventions — and the revenue they generate — because its convention center is small and outdated. Sanders says the demand for convention space doesn't match the supply many cities are providing and that cities often add space based on flawed analysis. "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," Councilwoman Megan Barry, one of more than 15 council members sponsoring the forum, said in a news release. "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." The Tennessean and other news organizations are co-sponsoring the event. The council is expected to take its final vote Tuesday on Nashville Mayor Karl Dean's $75 million plan to buy land for the proposed convention center south of Broadway, though a construction financing plan is still months away.

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