Ryman Hospitality Group, the company that manages the Grand Ole Opry, just announced a big renovation project. The storied venue is set to undergo $12 million worth of renovations and upgrades later this year.
According to the Tennessean, the company specifically earmarked the money to improve the visitor experience. Much of that money will go towards and enhanced area for backstage tours, better retail and improved parking conditions.
The Grand Ole Opry is one of Nashville's biggest tourist draws. Despite being removed from the central downtown hub, hundreds of thousands of people visit the venue for shows and tours every year. In fact, 650,000 people visited in 2016, which is up 150,000 people in a few years. Many of those visitors took tours of the Opry as well.
Ryman Hospitality runs several other key venues around town, including their namesake, the Ryman Auditorium. The company put more than $14 million towards renovating that venue just a few short years ago. That work included similar efforts, like a cafe and virtual tour area.
Though more parking doesn't sound like the most exciting detail, it's actually a big step up. Now the Opry will have more than 1,300 new spots on previously unused land. Currently, visitors park in an already busy mall parking lot, and it's a little confusing for first timers trying to get to the venue.
Reed and company are making a big bet on country music tourism. They also spent more than $8 million renovating downtown venue Wildhorse Saloon and dedicated more than $20 million towards a new Blake Shelton-themed bar called Ole Red.
And that's not all. The company also owns another historic building downtown that could see new use. Plus, it's building a waterpark at its hotel near Opryland. All of these projects are meant to entice visitors and new transplants to the city, which has exploded in population in recent years.
The Grand Ole Opry's renovations are expected to be completed in Oct. 2018.