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New country hall of fame goes up

By Tom Netherland, January 2001

Country music's past moves downtown come spring when the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opens. The $37-million attraction will welcome more exhibit space, offer more parking and officials hope to attract a greater influx of tourists.In addition, Hall officials announced just before Christmas that 10 new members will be announced just prior to its grand opening.Breaking with its tradition of inducting no more than four in a year, amid growing industry sentiment to honor more of its pioneers.Legendary figures Carl Smith, Waylon Jennings, Webb Pierce, the Delmore Brothers, the Louvin Brothers and Porter Wagoner are reputed to be among those who have made it to the Hall's final voting stage, reportedly offering them the best chance for induction among the 10 to be selected.Hall spokesperson Liz Theils indicates the new museum will bring a greater cohesivness to the presentation."If you think about the current museum, there are several unrelated galleries. Hank Williams. Famous stringed instruments. The current museum is just one gallery after the other. If you're going through the museum, you don't have any sense of how much you already have seen or how much you have to see. It's going to completely different in the new place."

"The story of country music is going to get a completely new interpretiaton. One of the ways is through an exhibition - a choronlogical story of the history decade through decade. Early recordings through the dawn of radio through today as close as we can get it."Located at Fifth Avenue South and Demonbreun, a short walk from the Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, the new Hall of Fame is expected to more than triple the annual attendance of the current hall.According to officials, more than 600 jobs will eventually be generated. In recent years, the downtown area's revival has included the building of the Gaylord Entertainment Center and the Adelphia Coliseum home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, located just across the Cumberland River.The current hall, located just minutes uptown on Music Row, was opened in April 1967. Amid the business end of country music, such buildings as the neighboring B.M.I. building dwarf the barn-like structure. Befitting its size, much of the hall's 1 million-item collection sits dormant beyond fans' eyes in lieu of space.Not so with the new hall.New attractions within the hall include a re-creation of Hall of Fame producer Owen Bradley's office, four state-of-the-art theaters, a full-service restaurant, an entire display area for a portion of Marty Stuart's extensive collection and specially-made permanent alcoves for Elvis Presley's sold-gold plated Cadillac and Webb Pierce's 1962 Pontiac Bonneville.More than 40,000 square-feet of exhibit space (nearly four times the current space) spread across two floors on in the building that exists on an entire city block will include such things as the 225-seat Ford theater, a museum store and 13,000-foot conservatory.The theatre will house live music, films and other special programming.Corporations as Ford Motor Co., which donated $4 million last summer, helped fund the new building. Individual contributions have come from such Hall members as Eddy Arnold, George Jones, Loretta Lynn and Pee Wee King. Other artists to have offered donations include BR5-49, Faith Hill, Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt, Patty Loveless, Vince Gill and Reba McEntire.The Hall's building, which nears completion, will be made from: 1,200 tons of structural steel, 14,000 cubic yards of concrete, 200,000 blocks and bricks, 80,000 tons of gravel, 350,000 square-feet of drywall and 60 miles of electrical cables and wiring. "You will have had an experience," Thiels says. "You will not just have seen a car or a film. You will connect with yourself in a way."