200 5 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

The Ryman Auditorium will undergo a multimillion-dollar expansion that will focus on the nonhistoric portions of the building, according to sources.

A news conference has been called for 10 a.m. Thursday, and company officials are expected announce further details at that time.

Ryman Hospitality President and CEO Colin Reedtold The Tennessean recently that the crush of tourists in Nashville had created a "good problem" for the company at the historic Ryman.

"The challenge is with the tremendous influx of tourists in Nashville, the Ryman really has some inadequacies," Reed told the newspaper earlier this month. "Not the Mother Church itself, but the piece at the front that services the customers — the restrooms, retail, lack of food.

"If you have ever been to the concert (hall) itself, when you're sitting in the auditorium is mind-blowing. But actually trying to get yourself a drink or trying to get into the restrooms, particularly the females' restrooms, is a challenge."

The auditorium underwent a major renovation in 1992 to the Fourth Avenue North side of the building. That's the area that will be the focus of the expansion, not the actual auditorium, which is revered for its history, acoustics and churchlike ambiance.

The Ryman was built in 1892 as a church called the Union Gospel Tabernacle. U.S. presidents, local politicians and union bosses have held rallies there.

The auditorium is regarded as the "Mother Church of Country Music," and the "Grand Ole Opry" broadcast live from there for decades. The Ryman was facing the wrecking ball in the 1970s, but preservationists joined with country music leaders and local officials to save it.

200 5 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wbir.com/1v7Mwij