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Dolly Parton plans Nashville theme park
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NASHVILLE (AP) — Dolly Parton plans a water-snow park in Nashville, described as the first of its kind in the country, to join her other tourist attractions in East Tennessee.
The new $50 million venture, announced Thursday on Parton’s 66th birthday, is a 114-acre park projected to open as early as summer 2014. It is not yet named.
It will join her Dollywood theme park and a water park in Pigeon Forge, about 190 miles away in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.
“I’m not a bit afraid of competing with myself,” she said. “They are far enough apart. I live in Nashville, so it’s natural for me to have two working places.”
The planned venture will be a partnership with Gaylord Entertainment, which owns the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center and the Grand Ole Opry country music show in Nashville.
The park is projected to have 500,000 visitors in its first full season with 450 full- and part-time employees.
Details about the new attraction were not announced except that there will be special winter festivities along with “lots of music,” said Colin V. Reed, chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment. Another 35 acres are reserved for expansion.
Parton’s Dollywood theme park and Splash Country attract approximately 4 million visitors yearly. The theme park opened in 1986, and the water park in 2001. Parton also owns the Dixie Stampede dinner theater in Pigeon Forge.
She said she is not worried winter weather might hurt attendance at the new attraction.
“Unless there’s a blizzard, we’ll be ready for ‘em,” she said.
Reed also said he believes the new park will help draw people to Parton’s existing attractions.
The two described the partnership as 50-50 with no worries about financing.
“We have a strong balance sheet and an icon like Dolly with us,” Reed said. Groundbreaking is projected for late this year or early 2013.
Nashville has one other commercial water park, plus a city-owned wave pool.
According to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, the city has 11 million visitors a year. One million of those stay at Gaylord’s resort, which is across the road from the new park.