After undergoing a $14 million expansion project, Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium's upgraded venue is up and running.

The renovation, which took about a year, gives country fans a refurbished entrance to the venue and added a new lobby, gift shop and restaurant. Also included in the project were a 100-seat theater and five new exhibits -- “Workin’ on a Building,” “Showplace of the South,” “Mother Church of Country Music,” “Ryman Stage to Screen” and “Ryman Renaissance” -- containing artifacts and videos featuring celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Robin Roberts and Trisha Yearwood.

"When you see the Ryman’s past come to life in such an innovative way, it’s hard to imagine that this building was nearly lost to history just 20 years ago," Colin Reed, the chairman and chief executive officer of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc., says in a press release. "As more and more people from all corners of the world discover what Nashville has to offer, we now have a fully immersive way to share with them just how important the Ryman is to Nashville, our artist community and to the people who visit this great city. The continued investments our company has made in the Ryman Auditorium are a testament to the fact that this building should and will live on forever as the most important Nashville icon."

The main attraction of the Ryman -- the auditorium itself -- has remained untouched. The original space was erected in 1890 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, and the building's church-like pews and stained glass have been carefully preserved, even as the city around it grows and changes.

They Ryman, often called the "Mother Church of country music," is a sacred place for musicians of all genres and, according to Vince Gill, it's not all about history or acoustics.

"I remember the first time I played on that stage and sang a song, I was hit by this giant wave, feeling the spirit move through my body," he tells Nashville's Tennessean. "I just think that the original intent of the building matters. The whole point of this place was to be a tabernacle, a place to move people's souls, you know? And it does it."

The Ryman's new Cafe Lula opens at 7AM, with tours of the Ryman Auditorium starting daily at 9AM. Ticket information is available at

See a slideshow of the newly renovated Ryman Auditorium on the Tennessean's website.