Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, formerly known as Opryland Hotel, is a large hotel and convention center located in Nashville, Tennessee and owned by Gaylord Hotels, a division of Gaylord Entertainment Company. It is the largest non-casino hotel in the world and bolsters the Nashville economy by attracting many trade shows and corporate meetings to the city.
The property, given a general theme toward "Southern hospitality", opened as Opryland Hotel in 1977 adjacent to the Opryland USA theme park and the Grand Ole Opry house, from which the hotel took its name. The hotel originally featured 600 guest rooms, a 20,000 square foot (2000 m²) ballroom, and 30,000 square feet (3,000 m²) of convention space. Originally built by the National Life & Accident Insurance Company, Opryland Hotel was sold to then-Oklahoma City-based Gaylord Broadcasting Company (which soon after changed its name to Gaylord Entertainment Company) in 1982 , along with most of National Life's entertainment properties, including WSM radio, Opryland USA, and the Grand Ole Opry.
In 1983 , six years after opening, Opryland Hotel completed its first major expansion, dubbed "Phase II". This large undertaking added 467 guest rooms, moving the total to 1,067. Phase II also brought 30,000 square feet (3,000 m²) more of ballroom space, and added the hotel's first signature atrium, the Garden Conservatory. Under large panes of glass and filled with plant life and fountains, the Garden Conservatory is designed to allow guests to experience a walk in a tropical garden without going outdoors. Hundreds of rooms have balconies overlooking the Conservatory. This was the first truly unique thing the hotel had to offer, and it set the stage for the next two expansions.
By 1988 , Opryland Hotel had expanded to 1,891 guest rooms. In the "Phase III" expansion, another 18,000 square foot (1,700 m²) ballroom was added along with the Cascades, a second atrium designed to complement the Garden Conservatory. The Cascades is covered by an acre of glass, and features thousands of plant species and large artificial waterfalls. As part of Phase III, but delayed by one year, another 4,000 square foot (400 m²) ballroom opened, designed for more intimate settings and smaller functions.
Separate from the Phase III expansion was the addition of an 18 hole golf course, "Springhouse Golf Club", located 2 miles east of the hotel. The par-72 links-style course was home to the BellSouth Senior Classic at Opryland on the Champions Tour from 1994 to 2003. It was renamed "Springhouse Links" in 2001, and then "Gaylord Springs" in 2006.
Opryland Hotel completed its "Phase IV" expansion in 1996 . The $175-million "Delta" added 922 guest rooms, bringing the total to its current 2,881, and was the largest construction project in the history of Nashville at the time (it was eclipsed in 1999 by Adelphia Coliseum, now known as LP Field). Also part of the expansion, which more than doubled the size of the existing structure, was an additional 55,465 square foot (5,150 m²) ballroom, a 289,000 square foot (27,000 m²) exhibit hall, and the Delta Atrium. The 150 foot (46 m) tall, 4.5 acre (18,000 m²) atrium was given a Cajun theme, borrowing many elements from New Orleans, Louisiana. Also under the large glass roof is the Delta River, a 0.25 mile (400 m) artificial waterway. For a small fee, guests may ride in a "Delta Flatboat" through a guided tour of the atrium. When it was christened, water samples from more than 6,000 rivers throughout the world, including every registered river in the United States, were poured into the Delta River.
The Delta expansion solidified the trend that Gaylord was focusing more efforts on its hotel division than its theme park, as the massive undertaking swallowed up any and all land the theme park could have expanded upon. Alas, following the 1997 season, the Opryland USA theme park ceased operations and was demolished. Simultaneously, Gaylord Entertainment announced a joint venture with the Mills Corporation for construction of the 1.2 million square foot (110,000 m²) Opry Mills shopping mall on the site. The park closure hurt occupancy rates at Opryland Hotel for the next five years. Gaylord Entertainment later divested its share of the mall and now leases the property and the "Opry" name to Mills Corporation.
After the theme park closed, Gaylord considered taking the "Opryland" name off the hotel, since "Opryland" (a name which was considered to be most synonymous with the theme park) no longer existed. Extensive market research showed that the hotel would have to rebuild its reputation without the "Opryland" name, so it was kept.
In the late 1990s, Gaylord Entertainment acquired the Ramada Inn on McGavock Pike, just across the street from Opryland Hotel. It was given a major renovation and dropped its Ramada affiliation to be known simply as "The Inn at Opryland". It is now affiliated with Radisson Hotels. This motel is marketed toward guests wishing to receive Opryland Hotel quality and amenities at economy prices.
In 1999 , the new Gaylord subsidiary "Opryland Lodging Group," which was formed in 1997 to plan expansions, was renamed "Opryland Hotels" as it began to see its plans for sister properties in Kissimmee, Florida and Grapevine, Texas come to fruition. Another hotel was later announced for Prince George's County, Maryland. As a result of these new plans, the hotel was renamed Opryland Hotel Nashville and given designation as the company's flagship property. The other hotels in the chain were to be named "Opryland Hotel Florida", "Opryland Hotel Texas" and "Opryland Hotel Potomac", respectively.
On October 26, 2001, Opryland Hotel Nashville was rebranded as Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (or Gaylord Opryland, for short), taking its name from its corporate parent. Gaylord Entertainment made the change seeking to take the "Opryland" name off of the new property in Florida. The Opryland Hotels division was renamed "Gaylord Hotels," and the Florida property was given the name "Gaylord Palms." The Texas hotel was initially going to be called "Gaylord Opryland Texas," but was later changed to "Gaylord Texan," after more market research concluded it needed an identity of its own. The yet-to-be-opened Maryland property was renamed "Gaylord National." Company officials at the time stated that the "Opryland" branding was strong to Nashville (and Texas, initially), but didn't fit with projects in other parts of the United States. Despite the rebranding effort, most locals (including the broadcast media) still refer to Gaylord Opryland as "Opryland Hotel."
In lieu of another expansion and as a result of the rebranding, the hotel underwent a $5 million renovation in 2003 . With it came a refurbishment and rebranding of several of the hotel's restaurants and pubs, new retail establishments, and building improvements. Plans were also announced to renovate and refurnish all of the hotel's 2,881 guest rooms over the next few years.
According to a 2003 press release, Gaylord Opryland planned to build a 5,000-seat amphitheatre on the site in the near future, but those plans seem to have been abandoned in favor of a convention center expansion.
On February 12, 2007, Gaylord Hotels announced plans to expand Gaylord Opryland once again, this time focusing on the Convention Center. The $400 million expansion will nearly double the size of the existing Convention Center and add a 400-room, stand-alone, all-suite hotel. A large parking garage would also be added to the site. The expansion will be built on the south side of the existing structure, pushing the building more toward Opry Mills.
The plans hinge on $80 million in public financing through the Metro government that would be repaid through the property taxes generated by the expansion. The first step in this process would be getting the Tennessee General Assembly to designate the site a "special tourism development zone".
This expansion would also make Gaylord Opryland the largest convention hotel outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is expected to be completed by 2010.
Unlike its sister properties, Gaylord Opryland has no universal structure layout as a result of its continued expansion. Because of this, the property can be very confusing to navigate, even for frequent visitors. Employees are even said to get lost in the hotel from time to time.
Magnolia - The original lobby and retail area of the hotel. Currently features the "Pub District" and Grand Staircase, as well as the WSM studios and the smaller of the two registration desks.
Garden Conservatory - The first atrium constructed, considered by many to be the heart of the hotel. Several weddings take place in the Garden Conservatory's romantic setting each year, near the lionhead fountain and crystal gazebo.
Cascades - The second atrium constructed. Features the rotating Cascades Terrace Lounge as well as the Cascades Seafood Restaurant and the hotel's largest waterfalls. Connects to the main lobby, which is where the main registration desk is located.
Delta - The third and largest atrium constructed. Currently the center of activity at Gaylord Opryland. Home to the Delta River, several retail stores, a few eateries, and Gaylord Opryland's finest restaurant, the Old Hickory Steakhouse. Also houses a small registration desk and a connection to Opry Mills. The Delta project was the main inspiration for the company's expansion into other markets.
Convention Center - The largest convention area in Tennessee with three main exhibit areas and five ballrooms.
The Convention Center at Gaylord Opryland is in direct competition with the Metro government-owned Nashville Convention Center. Gaylord Opryland is built to handle large conventions, while the NCC is suited more for smaller gatherings. Nashville is currently considering plans to expand or replace the existing public convention center, claiming they are unable to attract major conventions due to the center's relatively small size. In contrast, Gaylord Opryland has expanded its convention center twice since NCC opened in downtown Nashville in 1987 and regularly attracts major conventions to the city.
Gaylord Opryland currently features three exhibit halls and five ballrooms. Coupled with its massive hotel, Gaylord Opryland Convention Center can easily accommodate upwards of 10-12 separate gatherings at one time. On most weekends, guests will find at least two conventions taking place.
The hotel currently boasts 109,465 square feet (10,170 m²) of ballroom space and 319,000 square feet (30,000 m²) of exhibit space. A planned expansion (see above) will nearly double its size.
Gaylord Opryland hosted Major League Baseball's annual winter meetings in December 2002 , making Nashville the only city without a major league team to have ever hosted the event and putting the city into the national sports spotlight for a few days. The meetings were largely considered a success, and though no return to Nashville has been announced, it has been rumored. MLB is also looking at the other three Gaylord properties for future winter meeting sites.
While Gaylord Opryland caters largely to the out-of-town convention market, it serves a large purpose for the local community as well. Many local high schools use the ballroom space for their yearly proms. It is also known for being one of Nashville's hottest "first-date" spots because of its central location, restaurants, walkways, and scenery. Many local companies also take advantage of the Convention Center's abundant meeting space. Unlike most other non-casino hotels, a sizable portion of Gaylord Opryland's visitors are not actually guests of the hotel. The scenery of the various atria along with the various shops and dining options attract many walk-in visitors to the hotel every day.
Outside vendor Town Parke currently charges $12 to park automobiles at the hotel, (the hotel does not own the parking lot) but locals have found a way around this charge by parking at nearby Opry Mills free of charge and walking the short path to Gaylord Opryland. This is not recommended for overnight stays, both for lack of security, and the risk of being towed. Valet parking service is also available to hotel guests.
A Country Christmas
Throughout the months of November and December of each year, Gaylord Opryland attracts thousands of visitors to see the large display of Christmas decorations, dubbed A Country Christmas. Millions of decorative lights are placed in the trees at the resort, and all three atria contain various decorations, including animatronics. In addition, several special holiday-themed shows and attractions take place, including "ICE!", a display of ice sculptures, and the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular.
Home to the studios of 650 WSM, the company-owned 50 kW clear channel country music radio station.
Light and dancing water shows can be found in the Delta and Cascades atria.
238 pieces of art from 207 artists, all from Tennessee.