Repaired and Improved Opryland Resort Ready for the Holidays

4 Nov

Nashville's Opryland Resort convention space after flood repairs.

Gaylord Opryland Resort will reopen on Nov. 15 after being closed since May of this year when flood waters caused major devastation to the complex. More than 800,000-sq. ft. of space was wet in one way or another.

Nashville’s largest hotel and convention center had damage to all three atriums, some of the meeting space, 100 hotel rooms, several restaurants, the lobby and the power plant, according to David Kloeppel, president & COO at the complex. The hotel has 2,880 rooms and 6,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

“We ended up with $225 million cost and improvement,” Kloeppel said. “Since the hotel was going to be closed, we decided to take that opportunity and make upgrades that couldn’t be done while the hotel is open. We spent $30 million of that figure in upgrades that were not flood related.”

One of the first things the work crew did was salvage the fish and the one duck that live in the hotel. Then they drained and cleaned the river in the Delta area and the waterfalls in the other atriums. Many of the larger trees made it through the flood, and the fish and duck are back in their homes.

Kloeppel said while the waters were rising, his staff worked to set up a remediation crew and find air-handling equipment and generators to stabilize the air quality and dehumidify and pump the water.

“The engineering team on property had been there since the resort was built, and the general contractor, D.F. Chase, still works with us, as do the electrical contractors and structural engineers.”

New restaurants in the Cascades include Revello, which offers Italian fare, and Salario, which brings in Mexican cuisine. The restaurant in the Delta area was not restored. There is now seating for guests alongside the river.

WSM Radio will return to its studios in the Magnolia Lobby. Kloeppel said that area, including the shops, was not severely damaged. Carpet was replaced in the entry into the convention and exhibit areas. All the hotel rooms in that area were upgraded.

The convention and meeting rooms on the second floor sustained little damage, but the concrete on the lower level had to be pressure washed before renovation could begin. The outside of the hotel remains basically the same, and Christmas lights are already in place for the lighting ceremony in mid-November.

“Grand opening is right on time and on budget, and that’s something we like to be able to say,” Kloeppel said. “Our team worked around the clock these last six months, and did an unbelievable job to bring this place back.”

More than 80 percent of the staff will return to the hotel when it opens, which Kemp Gallineau, SVP and chief sales officer, said is a good thing for the hotel and their guests. “We will be able to provide the same level of service that we had in the past and which our clients are accustomed to.”

While Kloeppel and his staff were working on renovations, Gallineau and his team were contacting clients and helping them relocate their meetings. In the renovation process they lost 30 percent of the revenue stream.

“We met with customers either by flying out to talk to them or through conference calls,” Gallineau said. “We looked at the availability for not just our brand in Nashville and other cities, but other hotels and venues.”

More than 300,000 room nights were moved to other locations, and about 20,000 canceled and moved to dates after the venue would reopen.

Gallineau said his staff never stopped booking meetings because they were already booking into 2011 and beyond. “We have groups operating in November and December that had been on the books, and we have picked up some short-term business for November through December. We will operate close to 50,000 group room nights after we reopen.

“We are ahead of pace for our holiday bookings, so we are seeing a surge of people very interested in coming out for our Country Christmas,” Gallineau continued. “The show is a family tradition for many people. That is why it was important for us to be open in November.”

Upcoming activities include the Louise Mandrell Country Christmas and the Rockettes. The popular Ice exhibit will return, which features 2 million pounds of ice carved into winter scenes. Next door will be the new feature, Snow, where kids and their parents can build snow castles, throw snow balls and make snow angels in 18-20 inches of snow. – Vernell Hackett


Interviewed for this story: David Kloeppel and Kemp Gallineau, (615) 316-6000



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