Nashville venues prepare to reopen after flood

Fri May 7, 2010 10:41pm EDT
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By Ray Waddell

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.   Continued...