Dolly Parton, Gaylord to open new Nashville theme park - WKRN News 2

Dolly Parton, Gaylord to open new Nashville theme park

Posted: Updated: Jan 19, 2012 09:45 PM

Dolly Parton is partnering with Gaylord Entertainment to open a new theme park at Gaylord's Opryland hotel in Nashville.

Parton joined Gaylord CEO Colin Reed, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam at the Grand Ole Opry House for the official announcement Thursday afternoon.

The park will be located on 114 acres across Briley Parkway from the Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

Phase I will be a $50 million investment to develop a yet-to-be named water and snow park, the first of its kind in the United States.

The park, similar to the Snow Mountain attraction at Stone Mountain Park outside Atlanta, will provide a mix of high energy water activities for the summer season and designated snow activities for winter play.

It will anchor the project, which will have room to nearly double in size after the park is complete.

A late 2012, early 2013 groundbreaking date is expected with the park opening slated for summer of 2014.

The Dollywood Company will serve as the operating partner and employ 450 full and part time employees when complete.

A half-million guests are projected to visit the park in the first year alone.

"It's going to be great for the tourists that come to Tennessee, but it's also going to be great for the Nashville residents too. We did miss Opryland," Parton said.

Reed called the announcement, which was finalized three months ago, a good day for Nashville.

"I think the closing of our theme park was a really bad idea because what happened was it took customers who came two to three days to Nashville and replaced them with customers who come two to three hours for a shopping mall," Reed said.

Governor Haslam added, "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," "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," Mayor Dean added. "The addition of this family entertainment complex near Opryland adds a critical missing piece to our tourist offerings."

Music is also expected to be a big part of the project.

Phase II will include developing the rest of the land although leaders have definite plans as to what type of amusements would occupy the space.

Despite the excitement that surrounds the upcoming business opportunity in Nashville, some nearby residents are concerned about the impact it will have on traffic and their neighborhoods.

"Having a half a million people around the year is going to affect the surrounding street because there is only one way each way basically," resident Kyle Graves told Nashville's News 2.

Rick Cowan is the president of the Abbington Park Homeowners Association. The neighborhood sits just on the other side of Pennington Bend Road, not far from where the theme park will eventually open.

"For some businesses they may be ecstatic about it because it's going to bring more business in. As a homeowner and the area I live in and the peace and quiet it concerns me," he said.  

Despite the traffic worries, the Tennessee Department of Transportation said Briley Parkway will be able to handle the increased amount of traffic and that they are already developing plans to improve the area if needed.

"Obviously the plan hasn't even been fully developed yet, but at this point as we understand it TDOT will be looking at the intersection at Briley and McGavock Pike to look to make sure this intersection can handle the thousands of extra people that will possibly come through here each day," spokesperson Deanna Lambert said.

The area off McGavock Pike has plenty of room to expand from the current four lanes, but there is the question if it can handle an expansion and the extra traffic.

"We'd look to make sure that interchange has enough room to accommodate this extra traffic flow through there," Lambert said.

TDOT officials also said there is the possibility of creating a separate exit, although it is too early to comment.

"As the plan continues to develop we'll be happy to work with Metro, with Dolly and with Gaylord to make sure the proper infrastructure is here to accommodate all those extra people flowing through here," Lambert said.

Parton said she has wanted to open a business in the Nashville area for years.

Thursday's announcement coincided with Parton's 66th birthday.

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