As promised, this post covers the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., the largest non-gaming in-hotel facility in the continental United States. With 2,881 rooms and more than 6,000 square feet of meeting, convention and exhibit space, this resort is known for providing superior products and services to the meetings and convention industry as well as unsurpassed entertainment, vacation packages and dining for leisure travelers. The property is best known for its massive and lavish gardens and waterfalls, which are situated under nine acres of sparking glass roofs. The property originally opened as The Opryland Hotel in 1977 adjacent to the Opryland USA theme park and the Grand Ole Opry house, from which the hotel took its name.
In 1983, six years after opening, Opryland Hotel completed its first major expansion, dubbed "Phase II". This large undertaking added 467 guest rooms, moving the total to 1,067. Phase II also brought 30,000 square feet more of ballroom space, and added the hotel's first signature atrium, the Garden Conservatory. Under large panes of glass and filled with plant life and fountains, the Garden Conservatory was designed to allow guests to experience a walk in a tropical garden without going outdoors. Hundreds of rooms had balconies overlooking the Conservatory. This was the first truly unique thing the hotel had to offer, and it set the stage for the next two expansions.
By 1988, Opryland Hotel had expanded to 1,891 guest rooms. In the "Phase III" expansion, another 18,000-square-foot ballroom was added along with the Cascades, a second atrium designed to complement the Garden Conservatory. The Cascades was covered by an acre of glass, and featured thousands of plant species and large artificial waterfalls. As part of Phase III, but delayed by one year, another 4,000-square-foot ballroom opened, designed for more intimate settings and smaller functions.
Separate from the Phase III expansion was the addition of an 18 hole golf course, "Springhouse Golf Club", located 2 miles east of the hotel. The par-72 links-style course was home to the BellSouth Senior Classic at Opryland on the Champions Tour from 1994 to 2003. It was renamed "Springhouse Links" in 2001, and then "Gaylord Springs" in 2006.
Opryland Hotel completed its "Phase IV" expansion in 1996. The $175-million "Delta" added 922 guest rooms, bringing the total to its current 2,881, and was the largest construction project in the history of Nashville at the time (it was eclipsed in 1999 by Adelphia Coliseum, now known as LP Field). Also part of the expansion, which more than doubled the size of the existing structure, was an additional 55,465-square-foot ballroom, a 289,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and the Delta Atrium. The 150-foot tall, 4.5 acre atrium was given a Cajun theme, borrowing many elements from New Orleans, Louisiana. Also under the large glass roof was the Delta River, a 0.25 miles artificial waterway. For a $9 fee, guests ride in a "Delta Flatboat" through a guided tour of the atrium. When it was christened, water samples from more than 1,700 rivers throughout the world, including every registered river in the United States, were poured into the Delta River. The Delta expansion solidified the trend that Gaylord was focusing more efforts on its hotel division than its theme park, as the massive undertaking swallowed up any and all land the theme park could have expanded upon. Indeed, following the 1997 season, the Opryland USA theme park ceased operations and was demolished.
On October 26, 2001, Opryland Hotel Nashville was rebranded as Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (or Gaylord Opryland, for short), taking its name from its corporate parent. In lieu of another expansion and as a result of the rebranding, the hotel underwent a $5 million renovation in 2003. With it came a refurbishment and rebranding of several of the hotel's restaurants and pubs, new retail establishments, and building improvements. Plans were also announced to renovate and refurnish all of the hotel's 2,881 guest rooms over the next few years.
On May 3, 2010 the entire Opryland Hotel complex and its surrounding campus—including Music Valley Drive and parts of Briley Parkway—was under 5-10 feet of floodwaters generated from the swollen Cumberland River, which jumped its banks after two days of torrential rainfall. Pictures from the inside of the hotel showed the Cascades restaurant area swamped with water and debris, as were the adjacent tropical gardens. Aerial shots confirmed the entire complex, as well as the nearby Opry Mills Mall, was completely inundated by water. The Gaylord Opryland Hotel reopened its doors on November 15, 2010 after spending approximately $270 million to repair and upgrade the 2,881-room hotel. They did a wonderful job, the property is beautiful!
During the months of November, December, and through mid-January of each year, Gaylord Opryland attracts thousands of visitors to see the large display of Christmas decorations, dubbed A Country Christmas. Millions of decorative lights are placed in the trees at the resort, and all three atria contain various decorations, including animatronics. The hotel begins installing lights in July of each year. In addition, several special holiday-themed shows and attractions take place, including ICE!, a display of ice sculptures, and the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. Our friends Roger & Donna come each & every year to see the Christmas decorations. We're sure glad they spent the day showing us around today, even without the Christmas theme. We had a great day! Wish we could stick around long enough to see the property decked out for the holiday's, but it's time to move on down the road soon.
In fact, we're already 'on down the road' as I write this. We're actually in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee now. But more on that later!