Two of the biggest names in Tennessee tourism are teaming up to bring a major family entertainment zone to Nashville. Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE: GET) and Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Company have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a 50/50 joint venture to develop a 114-acre family entertainment zone adjacent to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. The Dollywood Company will serve as the operating partner. Phase one of the project is a yet unnamed approximately $50 million water and snow park, the first of its kind in the United States. A late 2012, early 2013 groundbreaking date is expected with the park opening slated for summer of 2014.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean joined Dolly Parton and Colin V. Reed, chairman and chief executive officer, for Gaylord Entertainment at today’s announcement at the Grand Ole Opry House at Gaylord Opryland.
“Tourism is the second largest industry in Tennessee, generating more than a billion dollars in tax revenue annually and employing more than 170,000 Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “This project will be a welcome addition to the wide variety of attractions and destinations across our great state, and I applaud the collaboration and spirit that has led to this announcement.”
“Music City has become a travel destination unlike any other in the country,” Dean said. “The addition of this family entertainment complex near Opryland adds a critical missing piece to our tourist offerings. It provides a unique leisure attraction that will further enhance our already booming hospitality industry, which is one of our city’s top private sector employers.”
The water and snow park will anchor the project which offers room for future expansion. The park will provide a mix of high energy water activities for the summer season and designated snow activities for winter play. Once open, first year attendance is projected at 500,000, a large portion of which will come from out of state, bringing in substantial tourism revenue to Tennessee and Nashville. Dollywood expects to employ 450 full- and part- time employees.
This proposed attraction furthers Gaylord’s focus on growing the leisure side of its business and continuing to drive revenue through its top-notch entertainment attractions throughout the year. The Dollywood Company is responsible for managing Dolly Parton’s Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, as well as her dinner theatre attraction, Dixie Stampede. Annually, these attractions attract approximately four million visitors and have won some of the industry’s most coveted awards including “world’s best theme park” and “America’s most beautiful water park.”
“I’m so excited about this opportunity,” Dolly Parton said. “I am confident that partnering my Dollywood Company with a great company like Gaylord will create something truly special. We’re all working on new types of entertainment to do in the daytime and nighttime for the whole family so we bring new folks to the area year round.”
“We are thrilled by the prospect of bringing to Nashville a family focused entertainment center with one of the preeminent theme park owners and operators in the country,” said Colin V. Reed, chairman and chief executive officer, for Gaylord Entertainment. “I am confident this proposed attraction, which will be a destination not only for our hotel guests but also for the entire Nashville community, will meaningfully enhance our transient and leisure strategy by providing a fun, family environment at the doorstep of the Opryland Hotel. With Dolly Parton’s country music legacy and strong ties to Nashville, we can think of no better partner for this venture than Dolly’s Dollywood Company.”
“We hope that some other developers with great ideas will join us for phase two of this project. We’re saying the water and snow park are the first phase, but who knows, if we see some great ideas we could be developing the entire zone by the time the snow and water park open. Wouldn’t that be great for Nashville and the state,” Parton said.
“We are in the early stages of planning and will make certain that any project we pursue is done so under the appropriate economic conditions and provides adequate returns for our shareholders,” said Reed. “We are reserving approximately 35 acres for expansion and complimentary regional attractions and we have been working closely with state and city officials to ensure we have the proper infrastructure agreements in place for the project to move forward. We are looking forward to working on the next steps of this project and to it becoming a valuable part of the Nashville tourism community.”