Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Officials promote downtown strategy to IBMA

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 12:02 AM CDT

Mayor Ron Payne led a local delegation to Nashville on Monday to explain the city's plans for making Owensboro a bluegrass center to the board of directors of the International Bluegrass Music Association.

"I was really pleased with the reception," said Terry Woodward, an Owensboro businessman who is vice chairman of the International Bluegrass Music Museum's board of trustees. "Having Ron go meant a lot. They liked hearing from the mayor."

Woodward, who accompanied Payne and Downtown Development Director Fred Reeves on the trip, was the first chairman of the IBMA in 1985.

Although the IBMA created the museum, they are today totally separate entities.

"We wanted to get their support for what we're doing," Payne said. "We want them to get the word around."

Woodward said: "We had lunch with them at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. They gave us 15 minutes to make our presentation, but they asked so many questions that we were there for half an hour.

"We told them about what we're doing with the whole waterfront and the plans for the bluegrass music center."

The city wants to move the bluegrass museum into the state office building at Second and Frederica streets and rename it the International Bluegrass Music Center, with indoor and outdoor stages for performances and possibly a barbecue restaurant with outdoor dining.

"We showed them what I call a cartoon drawing of what it could look like," Reeves said. "It's what could be, not necessarily what will be."

The bluegrass museum houses the IBMA's Hall of Fame.

"We told them we want to make it more exciting," Woodward said.

The IBMA had its headquarters in Owensboro from 1986 to 2003 and held its trade shows and Fan Fest here from 1987 to 1997.

"I pitched them the idea of coming back to Owensboro when we get this all done," Payne said. "I've gotta tell you, they didn't say no."

"They asked questions about the size of the new hotel (that's planned downtown) and the convention center," Woodward said. "Our convention center will be big enough to hold it, but we need more hotel rooms."

Payne said the city will be able to present more detailed drawings and a feasibility study when it meets with the museum board in Owensboro on Nov. 6.

Kitsy Kuykendall, the museum's board chairman, toured the 60,000-square-foot state office building -- three times the size of the current museum -- when she was in town this month.

"I was excited about all the space," she said. "That's going to be good for the city. I think everybody is excited about it. We just need to hear the details."

"I can't imagine we won't do it," Woodward said Tuesday. "This is the most exciting thing we're doing downtown. This will bring excitement to downtown year-round."

He said: "I was really pleased with our reception. I didn't detect any negativism at all."