The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum broke its attendance record for the third-straight year, continuing its momentum in advance of the expected completion of its expansion project in the coming months.
The Hall of Fame brought in 668,577 visitors in 2013, representing an 18.4 percent increase over the previous record of 564,777 in 2012. The Hall of Fame crossed the half-million mark for visitors in 2011.
Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young credited the three featured exhibits in 2013 in addition to the increasing popularity of country music and Nashville's steady tourism growth. The three featured exhibits were The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and California Country; Carrie Underwood: The Blown Away Tour; and Reba: All the Women I Am.
"The city is incredibly hot, and you add on top of that the genre of country music, which is equally hot," Young said. "You can't get through a night without seeing a country artist on TV."
Young said attendance revenue rose 35.9 percent over 2012 to just under $10 million — 14.4 percent more than budgeted. Gate revenue accounted for about half of the facility's overall revenue, spokeswoman Tina Wright said.
Expansion in works
With the anticipated completion of the facility's exhibit and archives space in the first quarter of this year, Hall of Fame officials are predicting more growth in 2014.
"We are looking at a 15 percent increase," Young said.
The Hall of Fame is the second-largest paid tourist attraction in Nashville, trailing only the Nashville Zoo in attendance. The zoo drew more than 750,000 visitors in 2011.
The Hall of Fame is in the midst of a huge fundraising effort, with about $80 million in donations secured toward a $100 million expansion.
"We are still obviously working that and we are hoping we will raise another $15 million or so," Young said. "We have some interesting prospects in the works."
Once completed, the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will have grown from 140,000 square feet to 350,000 square feet, and the building will literally sync up on the south with the new Omni Hotel, which is the headquarters hotel for the new convention center.
In 2010, the city approved a $34 million financing deal for the Hall of Fame expansion and its connector to Omni. The project is funded through money set aside from property tax revenues from downtown's redevelopment district.
Contact music business reporter Nate Rau at 615-259-8094 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tnnaterau.