*SEE PHOTOS BELOW*
Six months after the famous Opryland Hotel was shut down following the devastating Nashville flood, the doors to this legendary hotel are finally opening to nothing short of first-class fanfare.
"It's been a long six months. That first week after the floods was awful; we saw the tremendous damage that was done. But in the weeks after we saw the silver lining," Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment told me. "The reality is that this hotel, when we open it up first thing [on Monday], this hotel is going to be so much better from a physical perspective."
The Opryland Hotel hasn't wavered from its Southern hospitality charm since its opening in 1977. The hotel originally featured 600 guest rooms, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, and 30,000 square feet of convention space. In 1983, six years after opening, it completed its first major expansion, dubbed "Phase II," that included 467 new guest rooms, more ballroom space and the hotel's first signature atrium, the Garden Conservatory. By 1988, Opryland Hotel had expanded to 1,891 guest rooms, added another 18,000-square-foot ballroom and a second atrium designed to complement the Garden Conservatory. "Phase IV" expansion was completed in 1996 and introduced the $175-million "Delta," which added 922 guest rooms, bringing the total to its current 2,881. The hotel is, in and of itself, a Nashville attraction.
Part of the Gaylord Opryland Resort, the Opryland Hotel was evacuated on May 3, 2010 and has been closed since. Now, thanks to an extensive rebuilding and redesign effort, Nashville's largest and most prestigious hotel, is ready to welcome guests back to the 2,880-room hotel.
The company has spent between $270 million to $280 million to revive the largest non-casino hotel in the world and include five new restaurants, brand new carpeting and marble floors, and 700 renovated rooms. Two newly renovated suites high above the flood line -- one whose theme has yet to be revealed, and the other renamed the "Porter Wagoner Suite" after the late country music star -- will open next week.
So what's ahead for the Opryland? Reed tells me that 2011 will bring some exciting new developments. "2010 has been a challenge, but we're ending it on a strong note," he said. "This thing we've had to endure has made us a stronger business."
The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center reopens today and will celebrate its grand reopening with a three-day celebration of all things Nashville, including its famed "A Country Christmas" through mid-January. The holiday spectacular, which has been in the works since July, attracts thousands of visitors to see the endless displays of Christmas decorations, ice sculptures, and the Radio City Rockettes.