Matthew Borghese – AHN News Contributor
Nashville, TN, United States (AHN) – The party continues in Nashville where the Gaylord Opryland Resort has returned after months of repair and renovation. Celebrations lasting all weekend continue as the Music City welcomes the grand reopening of one of its signature destinations.
Gaylord has been working non-stop to reopen the resort, which was only closed for an astonishing 195 days. Using an overwhelmingly local workforce (95% of subcontractors came from the Volunteer State), an average of 500 to 800 people were working each day to install a total of 21,400 sheets of drywall, 2,200 doors, and around 45,000 sq. ft. of tile, marble, granite and decorative glass.
“It’s still difficult to describe the emotions I felt at sunrise on May 3rd, when the first light revealed the water completely surrounding and breaching this magnificent hotel,” Gaylord Entertainment CEO Colin Reed explained during the grand reopening ceremony. “But despite the devastation we witnessed, I never had any doubt that our company, with the support of our [employees] and our community, would prove ourselves to be equal to this challenge.”
“The road to recovery certainly hasn’t been an easy one, but we’re proud to be here today celebrating what is not only a special day for the Gaylord brand, but also the city of Nashville,” Reed added.
Grammy Award-winning Country music star Keith Urban kicked off an emotional grand reopening ceremony on Friday night. Urban, who lives in Nashville with his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, played an emotional set for invited guests, many of which worked for companies involved in the reconstruction. Even Guy Fieri got emotional during his lunch and cooking demonstration on Saturday. Fieri, host of the Food Network’s ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,’ admitted that he endured a red-eye flight from California in order to be a part of what he called the “historic” return of the Gaylord Opryland Resort.
Saturday night, Grammy Award-winning Country music star Sheryl Crow performed several of her hit songs during an exclusive concert. Crow, who lives on an 154-acre ranch near Nashville, only lost a small bridge in the May flood – but says the list of those who lost everything is endless. But just like thousands of other tourists, Crow is one of the stars glad to see the hotel’s return. While Crow was entertaining fans in a packed ballroom, her two adopted sons Wyatt Steven and Levi James toured the resort’s ‘ICE!’ attraction after spending a day at the Nashville Zoo.
‘ICE!’ is just one of the attractions the Gaylord Opryland has been reintroducing to the public. Gaylord spent millions to renovate much of the resort, including revamping guest rooms and putting in new restaurants. Guests during the grand reopening weekend filled the new Conservatory Bar, which sits between two new restaurants; the Italian-themed Ravello and the Mexican-themed Solario. Ravello’s menu Twin-sister bartenders (and Nashville-natives) Dana and Tara say the Conservatory Bar’s newly mixed “Lemoncello Collins” has been as popular with guests as it is strong.
The rebirth of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel comes pointedly at the start of the holiday/Christmas season. The hotel pushed hard to reopen in time to continue their annual ‘Country Christmas’ attraction. Each year, the Gaylord Opryland hangs over 2 million lights across the resort, lighting up 461 trees, 500 shrubs and hanging 15 miles of green garland and 10 miles of red ribbons. There’s a 40 ft. indoor Christmas tree and a 141-foot-tall ‘Southern Lights’ outdoor tree with more than 38,000 lights.
‘The Radio City Christmas Spectacular’ with the Rockettes is also making its return to the restored Grand Ole Opry House. The show brings Santa Claus and a cast and crew of more than 100 members, including the high-kicking Rockettes and live animals for the ‘Living Nativity.’ After the show, families have been lining up to walk-through ‘ICE!’ which pays tribute to the film ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’ as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. The attraction boasts 2 million lbs of hand-carved ice and is kept at a bone-chilling 9 degrees. Guests walk-through scenes from the movie and can enjoy a slide made entirely of ice.
Beyond fun and games, the Opryland Resort and Convention Center and the Grand Old Opry is one of Nashville’s economic cornerstones. Each year millions of locals, visitors and conventioneers visit the Gaylord Opryland Resort, which is the largest non-casino hotel in the United States. The Gaylord Opryland is also a major part of Nashville’s transition from a historic Country music town to an international convention destination that can handle serious business.
This week, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced that after fierce competition, the National Rifle Association (NRA) decided to bring its 144th annual convention to the Music City. The three-day convention will bring an estimated 50,000 guests and $25 million to Nashville.
“We’re coming out of a difficult economy and the flood and now there’s pent-up demand for the hospitality industry,” Loews Vanderbilt Hotel General Manager Tom Negri told the Tennessean newspaper. “Having that large of a group means so much for the city. And association business like this tends to follow one another.”
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