Music City Center

Redefining Sustainability in Nashville
Some people would have looked at this project and thought, 'how in the world are we going to make this happen?' Instead, this team looked at every potential obstacle as an opportunity and asked 'how do we capitalize on that?
Charles Starks, President & CEO, Music City Center
Nashville, Tennessee
The Convention Center Authority of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County
Moody Nolan, Inc.
Additional collaborations with Moody Nolan, Inc.:
Tuck Hinton Architects
2,100,000 Square Feet
Year Completed: 

In a joint venture agreement, Clark constructed the 2.1 million square-foot Music City Center, which is located in downtown Nashville, adjacent to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Bridgestone Arena. The largest municipal project in Nashville's history, Music City Center immediately vaulted the city into the top tier of convention destinations and averaged 6,500 attendees for its earliest bookings.

The Music City Center convention center, which spans three city blocks, boasts a 350,000 square-foot exhibition hall, 60 meeting rooms, and a 57,000 square-foot grand ballroom that also is designed to serve as a music venue and an 18,000 square-foot junior ballroom. In addition, there are more than 80 pieces of art, 32 loading docks, and an 1,800-vehicle parking garage. Large skylights and a 14-story glass curtain wall system allow daylight into the exhibit hall and concourse, making the convention center a warm space from within, and an inviting presence from outside. 

The convention center is designed to reflect Nashville’s geography and culture. The clearspan exhibit halls use a unique cable-braced structure that helps form the rooftop’s topography and support the structure. Also on the roof, the building’s guitar-shaped mechanical penthouse is a nod to the city’s heritage and nickname. 

During the project's planning phase, the Music City Center budget was cut by $50 million in an effort to meet bond requirements. The joint venture team — suddenly faced with fulfilling the convention center's design intent with a $415 million budget, 10 percent less than expected — vowed to find innovative ways to satisfy the project's design intent and stay on budget.

One of the most innovative strategies controlled costs while realizing one of the project's most ambitious design elements. The 270-foot spans between columns in the exhibit hall were virtually unprecedented in a convention center. The team needed to hoist 12 sets of catenary trusses 33 feet high to facilitate the column-free design. Three of the trusses were over 80 feet long and weighed nearly 200 tons. Rather than incur the expense of the cranes traditionally used to place structural steel, the team turned to a construction method most commonly used in building arenas: truss jacking. After careful preplanning, including consultations and inspections with an independent structural engineer, the team brought four 125-ton Enerpac/Hydrospex jacks and a hydraulic cable system on site.

The team kept their promise and delivered Nashville a world-class convention center, on time and in budget, through creative construction strategies.


Features key to the building’s LEED Gold certified status include a four-acre green roof, the 360,000 gallon rainwater collector, and an array of 845 solar panels.

Designed to mimic the rolling hills of Tennessee, the green roof spans over four acres and is currently the largest green roof in the Southeast. The 175,000 square foot roof is composed of 14 different types of vegetation and a waterproofing membrane. The green roof is an integral part in the overall sustainability plan, helping to reduce energy usage by absorbing heat and acting as an insulator to reduce the amount of energy needed to provide heating and cooling to the facility. The vegetation on the roof provides a natural habitat for plants, insects and wildlife that would otherwise have limited space in an urban environment.

The Music City Center’s construction theme was “reduce, reuse, recycle”, earning a Brownfield Redevelopment credit for reusing an already-developed location which prevented additional loss of open space in the city. The overall goal was to make construction as low-impact as possible by diverting at least 50% of the waste stream during construction to recyclables and by using local building suppliers and 90% recycled glass within the facility. The state of the art high-performance HVAC systems uses the Nashville District Energy System steam and chilled water which significantly reduces the amount of refrigerant used in the facility and also decreases the overall energy consumption.

In addition, the facility implemented an indoor air quality control plan and used only low emitting VOC materials (adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, carpet, composite wood and agrifiber products) during the construction process.

Hiring Local & Small Businesses

The Music City Center will have a lasting impact on Nashville. Its construction was a boon to the local building industry. More than 7,800 workers participated in the construction efforts and over 130 Diversity Business Enterprise program firms were awarded contracts on the project, totaling $124.5 million. Bell/Clark’s workforce development efforts included awarding contracts to 44 minority-owned companies, 39 woman-owned businesses, and 44 small businesses.

Giving Back to the Local Community

The Music City Center team also worked to give back to the Nashville community. Over the course of construction, team members leveraged their experience to completing multiple Habitat for Humanity projects, working with the ACE mentor program at a local highs school for two years, and sponsoring Hands on Nashville, which rehabilitates the city's public schools - for two straight years.

Additional community services efforts included organizing on-site blood drives for the American Red Cross, hosting annual holiday food drives, and working through the Martha O'Bryan Center to assist local schools with education and strategic planning efforts.

ABC National Excellence in Construction - Mega-Project (Pyramid Award)
AGC of Tennessee Build Tennessee Award
ENR Southeast - Best Project of 2013, Sports/Entertainment
Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award - Building Green Category