NASHVILLE - Officials in Brown County have broken ground on the $12.5 million Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center, a 2,000-seat entertainment venue in downtown Nashville. Maple Leaf Management Group Co-President Barry Herring says the county-owned attraction will fill a void left when the Little Nashville Opry burned down nine years ago. "This town has just been starving for a replacement," he told Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman during a ceremony Tuesday at the construction site. "It kind of like took a piece of the county's soul."

Herring believes the Maple Leaf will help expand the kinds of tourists coming to Brown County. "I think every community is looking to draw a younger crowd," he said. "I think that what will happen with this music venue is the demographic of the tourist is going to change a little bit. I think traditionally you've seen a lot of retired couples and families down here, but what I think will happen with this music venue is it's going to be everybody. I think you're just going to see the demographic expand a lot as to who the tourist is going to be," Herring said.

The project will be financed from the county's 5 percent innkeepers tax, which is paid by overnight tourists at hotels or rental homes. The economic impact in return, Herring says, will be "well beyond any advertising we could do to draw people to the county." He expects the Maple Leaf to attract visitors from throughout the country.