A new, $37 million Country Music Hall of Fame is scheduled to open in June 2001. Ground was broken for the building last fall in downtown Nashville, Tenn., near the historic Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry's former home. Present for the occasion were many Hall of Famers, including Brenda Lee, Little Jimmy Dickens, Kitty Wells, Chet Atkins, Eddy Arnold and Earl Scruggs.
"It's going to be a great museum, but it's also going to be a fabulous, flexible facility," said Kyle Young, director of the Country Music Foundation, the umbrella organization over the Country Music Association's Hall of Fame.
Mr. Young began working at the current Hall of Fame building on Music Square East in 1977 as a ticket taker. His predecessor, Bill Ivey, was appointed by President Clinton in 1998 to head the National Endowment for the Arts.
The 140,000-square-foot facility (40,000 square feet of exhibit space plus a 200-seat theater, a glass-walled library/archives facility and a sunlit rotunda for the coveted Hall of Game plaques) replaces a 45,000-square-foot building opened in 1961.
An eye-catching part of the new museum will be a huge wall displaying every gold and platinum country album awarded (more than 850 to date).
The architectural firm that designed the facility is Ralph Appelbaum Associates, which built the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Newseum in Arlington, Va.
There's no telling how many millions of people, including the country stars honored in the Hall of Fame, have walked the corridors of the current museum, stared through the glass display cases containing the spangled costumes and handmade instruments of country legends, read the envelopes and laundry lists on which classic country songs where composed and listened to pioneer recordings of America's musical heritage.
I cannot count the times I've watched in fascination as the roof of Elvis Presley's 1960 Cadillac was lifted over and over again to trigger tiny spotlights shining in rotation on the car's electric shoe buffer, TV set, bar and other customized features.
I can't count the times I've stared in the faces molded in realistic relief on the Hall of Fame plaques and remembered the wonderful times of staring in those same faces in person during their lifetimes.
Thanks to the Country Music Foundation and other financial supporters, millions of country fans will be able to enjoy these same experiences and more in the new building.