Last month, the Scene's Adam Gold reported that one of the major recommendations of Mayor Karl Dean's Nashville Music Council was that Nashville secure a new amphitheater — a shed capable of drawing all the touring summer acts who used to make Starwood a regular stop in Antioch. Today, in a must-read story, the City Paper's Joey Garrison has the news that the Nashville Symphony, among other groups, is interested in just such a venue on the long-unused site of the old Metro thermal plant:
Most observers believe a new amphitheater in downtown Nashville would not be reserved solely for the symphony; it would likely cater to other musical acts that have skipped Nashville on tours in the past due to the absence of a midsize venue. That’s where an artist management company could come into play. According to multiple sources privy to the discussion, at least one such agency has approached Metro about a new downtown venue.
Why does the city need another music venue of any kind, let alone a riverfront amphitheater? Gold laid out the Music Council's case last month:
The 2006 closure of Starwood has cost the city untold amounts of ancillary revenue, not to mention entertainment. [CAA's Rod] Essig estimates the city is losing up to 20 shows a year by not having a proper outdoor venue.
To fill the void, the committee has determined that the city needs a pavilion-style amphitheater with seating for around 8,000 — à la Atlanta's Chastain Park or L.A.'s Greek Theater — to host concerts too small for Bridgestone Arena and too big for the Ryman, in addition to functioning as a venue for events like a Nashville Symphony Summer series and large-scale conventions.
Essig says the goal would be to attract something in the neighborhood of 50 shows per season — likely running April through November — but he adds that they could feasibly host as many as 60 or 70. Multiply that by an average of 5,000 attendees per show, and you've got yourself some downtown revenue, a healthier concert industry and a more congested Lower Broad — assuming this venue ends up nestled on the river, if it ends up anywhere at all.
It's not a new idea, as Nashville Symphony CEO Alan Valentine tells the CP. But the activity reported by Garrison is the first hint of real momentum behind the prospect. Wait, you ask — what about all that talk over the years about building a ballpark on the site? Read the last two graphs of Garrison's article.