by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | July 19, 2010

If they gave awards to hotels for resiliency, Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center would be a serious contender. This week we check in with parent company Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment for an update on the flood-damaged 2,881-room property, which remains shuttered since early May when the rain-swollen Cumberland River breached its levees, turning much of Music City's downtown into a federal disaster zone.

A massive clean-up and repair process — with a price tag estimated as high as $172 million — has been in full swing ever since. Not only did 117 guest rooms have to be completely replaced, so did the entire ground floor's exhibit space and its ruined technology infrastructure. Reflecting on the catastrophe, Gaylord president and COO Dave Kloeppel is decidedly upbeat. "The response we have received from day one bar1until now has been overwhelmingly positive," he told M&C. "In fact, many meeting planners actually called us after the flood, asking how they could help."

Apparently, they have done so in record numbers by booking future business. Advance group bookings from June 2010 for future years has already topped 78,664 room nights, an increase of 8.8 percent over the same period last year. "Our loyal customers understand that we have product that is unmatched in the markets we serve," said Kloeppel, who pointed out that at the time of the flooding, the hotel had on its books 329,900 group room nights for the next six months. Of those, 42,000 were relocated to other Gaylord properties, while another 65,000 remained in Nashville, moving to other hotels. The bulk, however, were forced to relocate to other destinations.

flood1A few notable surprises are in store for planners when this iconic property finally reopens its doors on the target date of Nov. 15, 2010. Not only have guest rooms — even those that didn't sustain flood damage — been completely updated, gone is the dark wood paneling in the Cascades lobby, replaced instead with a bright palette of greens and oranges. The adjoining garden-filled atrium has been reconfigured and expanded, a new Mexican eatery has been added, and Fuse (the hotel's former nightclub) will operate as a sport's bar by day and transform into a Las Vegas-style club for late-night patrons.

Cheryl-Anne Sturken
Hotel Insider