Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (September 2008)|
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|Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center|
|Architect||Earl Swensson Associates|
|Owner||Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc.|
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, formerly known as Opryland Hotel, is a large hotel and convention center located in Nashville, Tennessee. It is owned by Gaylord Hotels, a division of Ryman Hospitality Properties (formerly known as Gaylord Entertainment Company), and operated by Marriott International. It is the largest non-casino hotel in the Continental United States outside of Las Vegas. Also ranking as the 28th in the List of largest hotels in the world.
The property, given a general theme toward "Southern hospitality", opened as The 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 (1,900 m2) ballroom, and 30,000 square feet (2,800 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 (2,800 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 (370 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 (3.2 km) 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 (5,152.9 m2) ballroom, a 289,000-square-foot (26,800 m2) exhibit hall, and the Delta Atrium. The 150-foot (46 m) tall, 4.5 acres (1.8 ha) 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 miles (0.40 km) artificial waterway. For a $9.50 fee and $7 for kids (4-11), guests may ride in a "Delta Flatboat" through a guided tour of the atrium. When it was christened, water samples from more than 1,700 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. Indeed, 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 12,000,000-square-foot (1,100,000 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 Simon Properties, the successor 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 Maryland property, on which construction had not yet begun at that point, 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.
In November 2011, Gaylord Opryland opened an Events Center between the Delta and Opry Mills. The yearly "ICE!" exhibit is housed in this building during the winter months.
May 2010 Flood
On May 3, 2010, the entire Opryland complex was covered by 5-10 feet of floodwaters generated from the swollen Cumberland River, which jumped its banks after two days of torrential rainfall. Pictures from the inside of the hotel showed the Cascades restaurant area swamped with water and debris, as were the adjacent tropical gardens. Aerial shots confirm the entire complex was completely inundated by water. Gaylord's other riverfront properties—Gaylord Springs and The Wildhorse Saloon—were also directly affected by the flooding Cumberland River. The golf course was completely underwater, and Wildhorse Saloon was partially flooded along First Avenue in downtown Nashville. (WKRN, WSMV, WTVF)
Following six months of extensive remediation, Gaylord Opryland reopened its doors on November 15, 2010.
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 would have nearly doubled the size of the existing Convention Center and added a 400-room, stand-alone, all-suite hotel. A large parking garage would also have been 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 hinged 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 have also made Gaylord Opryland the largest convention hotel outside of Las Vegas. It was expected to be completed by 2010,[dead link] but following the economic slowdown of 2008-2009, the decision by the Metropolitan Nashville government to build its own large-scale convention center a few miles away, and the May 2010 flood, the plans are on indefinite hold.
On January 19, 2012 Gaylord Entertainment announced a new partnership with Dolly Parton's The Dollywood Company to build a new water and seasonal snow park on acreage the company owns across Briley Parkway from Gaylord Opryland. The $50 Million Phase 1 of the overall project was expected to open in Spring of 2014. On September 28, 2012, Dolly decided to withdraw her partnership in the new Nashville theme park.
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 District" and Grand Staircase, modeled after Tara from the movie Gone With the Wind.
- 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 Cascades American Café as well as Wasabe (a Japanese sushi restaurant) and the hotel's largest waterfalls. Connects to the registration lobby.
- 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. This area of the hotel also features a connection to Opry Mills Shopping Mall. 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.
Restaurants, bars and other eateries
There are many varieties of places to eat and entertain throughout the property:
|Old Hickory Steakhouse||Delta Atrium||Fine Dining||Recommended|
|Solario||Garden Conservatory Atrium||Mexican Cuisine|
|Cascades American Café||Cascades Atrium||Regional Americana||Recommended||Breakfast Lunch Dinner|
|Findley's Irish Pub||Magnolia Section||European Pub fare|
|Jack Daniel's||Magnolia Section||Southern BBQ|
|Opry Backstage Grill||Radisson Hotel At Opryland||BBQ & Burgers||Offsite, but Shuttle available|
|Paisano's Pizzaria & Vino||Delta Island||Pizza|
|Conservatory Café||Garden Conservatory||Pastries, Croissants, Muffins & Coffees|
|Cocoa Bean||Cascades Lobby||Coffee, pastries & Sandwiches to-go||WiFi|
|Gaylord Springs Honors Grill||Gaylord Springs Golf Links||Grill|
|Relâche Pool Bar & Grill||Relâche Outdoor Pools||Salads, burgers, Wraps||Example|
|Häagen-Dazs||Delta Island||Ice Cream|
|Christie Cookies||Garden Conservatory||Pastries, Cappuccinos, Gelato|
|The Falls||Cascades Atrium||Bar, Lounge, Desserts & coffee||WiFi|
|The Conservatory Bar||Garden Conservatory||Wine & Cocktails|
|Library Lounge||Delta Atrium||Upscale Bar|
|Fuse Sports Club||Magnolia Section||Bar, Wings, nachos||100 HD TVs|
The Convention Center at Gaylord Opryland is in direct competition with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County-owned Nashville Convention Center. Gaylord Opryland is built to handle large conventions, while the NCC is suited more for smaller gatherings. 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. In 2009, the Metro Government began construction on the Music City Center, which will replace the NCC and compete with Gaylord Opryland for convention business when it is completed in 2013.
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 convention center is divided into five areas: the Magnolia, Tennessee, Presidents, Governors, and Delta sections; each of which specializes in terms of rooms' size, and purposes. There are currently three levels in the convention center to accommodate the variation in height among the different ballrooms and exhibit halls.
The hotel currently boasts 109,465 square feet (10,169.6 m2) of ballroom space and 319,000 square feet (29,600 m2) of exhibit space. A planned expansion (see above) will nearly double its size.
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 $20 to park automobiles at the hotel, 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 for $26 a night.
A Country Christmas
During the months of November, December, and through mid-January 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. The hotel begins installing lights in July of each year. 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. During the Christmas seasons of 2007 and 2008, ICE! has had a theme of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The season of 2009 had a theme of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and 2010 had a theme of Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. As part of a strategic partnership with Dreamworks Animation, many of Opryland's Christmas exhibits were themed toward films produced by that company (such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda) beginning in 2011. The 2011 ICE! exhibit was themed after the short film Merry Madagascar. 2011 marked the 28th presentation of Gaylord Opryland's A Country Christmas.
- 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.
- 0.25-mile (0.40 km) "river", home to several fish species
- Adjacent to Grand Ole Opry and Opry Mills
- Adjacent to Cumberland River, though it is not visible from within the hotel.
- Summerfest, a little block party, featuring real dancers and performers, happens every Summer in the Delta atrium, near the Haggen-Dazs & Opry Shop. In 2011, it moved to the Magnolia Pool.
- 2,881 guest rooms, including:
- 200+ suites
- 750+ atrium-facing rooms with private balconies, patios, or large bay windows which overhang into the atrium
- 109,465 square feet (10,170 m²) of ballroom space
- 319,000 square feet (30,000 m²) of exhibit space
- 6 full-service restaurants which include The Old Hickory Steakhouse, Cascades American Cafe, Solario, Ravello, and Findley's Irish Pub.
- 3 lounges which The Falls, The Jack Daniel's Saloon, and The Library at Old Hickory
- 8 eateries which include STAX Hamburgers, Paisano's Pizza, Häagen-Dazs, Christie Cookies, Conservatory Café, Wasabi's Sushi, and Coca Bean.
- 14 retail stores including Amelia's, Savannah's and Miss Scarlet's, the three of which are women's fashions stores, Alexzander Kalifano's, a jewelry shop, the Magnolia, and Delta Necessities Stores, Signature, Cowboys and Angels, Delta Gifts and Decor, Bushels and Baskets, The Opry Shop, Bookmark, Sunny G Children's Boutique,
and coming in April 2010 Johnston & Murphy.
- Fuse Nashville Nightclub which specializes in an assortment of gourmet food and cocktails, including the signature "Cotton Candy Martini".
- Relâche Spa and Salon which offers a variety of massages and upscale services featuring a full-service salon, sauna, shopping boutique, as well as a fitness center which is open 24 hours. Relâche also houses the hotel's indoor pool and one of the outdoor pools.
- The Arcade which features many games and prizes.
- Gaylord Palms - Kissimmee, Florida
- Gaylord Texan - Grapevine, Texas
- Gaylord National - Prince George's County, Maryland
Related Gaylord-owned properties in Nashville
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