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NASHVILLE (Billboard) - The devastating flood that ravaged Middle Tennessee during the first weekend in May pushed water from the swollen Cumberland River all the way up to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
But despite the temporary closing of numerous performance venues and estimates that property damage in Nashville alone could top $1 billion, there were signs that things could have been far worse for the region's vital music industry.
Nashville's most storied venue, the Ryman Auditorium, escaped unscathed. Capt. Tom Ryman, who built what was originally called the Union Gospel Tabernacle, "was a smart guy and picked a nice high plot of land on which to build," Ryman general manager Sally Williams says.
Most of the honky-tonks on Lower Broadway remained open. Nashville's Music Row, home to recording studios, label offices and music publishers, is about a mile from the Cumberland and was spared. And the Country Music Assn. says the CMA Music Fest will go on as planned June 10-13 at downtown's Riverfront Park, the Nashville Convention Center and LP Field.
The LP stadium came through in good shape, and though Riverfront has been underwater for days, its stage is concrete and concert organizers usually handle back-end support for live shows from a barge on the Cumberland.
"The venues downtown relative to us -- the arena and Riverfront -- save some cleaning and labor and just general pain in the butt, will be restored relatively quickly, barring another catastrophe," CMA chairman Steve Moore says. "We've been assured by (Convention & Visitors Bureau president) Butch Spyridon and other industry and civic leaders that CMA Music Fest will be ready for our fans in June."
Bridgestone Arena vice president of booking Brock Jones says the venue had to move Brad Paisley and Lynyrd Skynyrd rehearsals from the arena's rehearsal hall because of flooding. But, Jones adds, "the venue will be fine for James Taylor/Carole King May 22, and the rehearsal hall will be good to go June 1" to prepare for the June 9 CMT Video Music Awards.
At Municipal Auditorium, two feet of water flooded the building's mechanical room, but general manager Bob Skoney says the venue expects to have power restored by the weekend. "It really is a disaster for our city," Skoney says.
Few know that as well as Gaylord Entertainment, owner of the Grand Ole Opry and neighboring Gaylord Opryland Resort. Both are adjacent to the Cumberland and sustained significant damage. Gaylord representatives didn't respond to requests for comment, but the company's CEO, Colin Reed, told the Tennesseean newspaper that it could take three to six months for Opryland to host guests again.
In the interim, scheduled performances at the Opry are being held at other Nashville venues, with weekend performances moved to the Ryman, the Opry's longtime former home. "We'll be working on the rest of the plan over the next few days," the Ryman's Williams says.
Also damaged by flooding were Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Flood waters didn't reach any of the exhibits or historic materials at the hall, which is expected to reopen on the weekend.
Production and storage facility Soundcheck, home to numerous tour sets and rehearsal studios, had to close due to flooding, forcing dozens of touring artists to scramble for gear and rehearsal space.
Along with their personnel, the majority of country music artists make Middle Tennessee their home, and some of them, along with thousands of other residents, suffered staggering property losses. Artists including Paisley, Keith Urban, Julie Roberts, Dierks Bentley and Kenny Chesney lost gear and property to flooding.
Benefit concerts are being held to raise funds for flood relief efforts. On May 6, WSMV-TV in Nashville was scheduled to broadcast a telethon hosted by Vince Gill featuring performances by Urban, Alison Krauss, Naomi Judd, Amy Grant, Lorrie Morgan, Darius Rucker and other country music stars. And Nashville native Ke$ha says she will perform a benefit show June 16 at the city's Limelight venue.
The CMA, which annually donates half of the net proceeds from Music Fest to a local music education program, will donate the other half of this year's proceeds to regional flood relief efforts.
"It affects us personally, more than anything else," the CMA's Moore says. "Everybody wants to help; they're going to help, and (the CMA is) going to help. We've got a plan in place. It's a passionate business, and everybody's going to step up."
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