Dollywood and Gaylord Entertainment partner to bring water and snow park to Nashville

Posted Thursday, January 19, 2012 1:50 PM | Contributed by Jeff

[Ed. note: The following is an excerpt of a press release. -J]

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."

Related parks

Thursday, January 19, 2012 2:15 PM

“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.”

I'm pretty sure a "family entertainment complex" tried and failed in the same proximity. Bring back the Chaos...

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Thursday, January 19, 2012 2:28 PM

Pretty cool! This sounds to me like something like Camel Beach in PA.

Last edited by LostKause, Thursday, January 19, 2012 2:29 PM
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Thursday, January 19, 2012 2:29 PM

Once open, first year attendance is projected at 500,000

Does anyone else think that sounds pretty ambitious?

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Thursday, January 19, 2012 2:51 PM

Consider Dolly's Splash country was the #11 waterpark in 2007 with only 491,00 visitors, yes it is very ambitious.
Nashville is greeting this with a great big "Meh". They are going to have to come out of the gate with a VERY appealing and unique product to attract any meaningful local attention, and I am mystified that they think this is a (out of state) tourist driver of any meaningful degree. Almost every area has a decent waterpark, who travels long distances for one?

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Thursday, January 19, 2012 3:06 PM

Seems pretty ambitious. But projects of this type tend to do that when in the planning stages. Would be interested to see if they are giving the same numbers to their investors/lenders.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012 4:59 PM

ThemeDesigner said:
Consider Dolly's Splash country was the #11 waterpark in 2007 with only 491,00 visitors, yes it is very ambitious.

Just thinking....not being that familiar with the area....Splash Country doesn't operate year-round....and Nashville doesn't already have Dollywood sitting right next door. Don't get me wrong, I agree that 500K sounds, well, ambitious....just trying to come up with reasons they may think that number is achievable.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012 5:40 PM

Opryland Hotel already has a very successful Christmas experience with lights, shows, and an ICE!. I have no idea how many people experience that in the 30ish days it is open but I do know it is very popular. I don't think 100K or even 200K people in that time is out of the question. Don't' discount the winter side of this "park".

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Friday, January 20, 2012 10:12 AM

I will be interested to see what they have planned....we already have a pretty nice waterpark with Nashville Shores. A "snow park" is also interesting as Nashville is not really a climate condusive to snow...the high today is 55 degrees. Upper 50's to 60's for the rest of the 7 day forecast. It doesn't quite make sense to me yet.

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Friday, January 20, 2012 10:23 AM

rollergator said:


ThemeDesigner said:
Consider Dolly's Splash country was the #11 waterpark in 2007 with only 491,00 visitors, yes it is very ambitious.

Just thinking....not being that familiar with the area....Splash Country doesn't operate year-round....and Nashville doesn't already have Dollywood sitting right next door. Don't get me wrong, I agree that 500K sounds, well, ambitious....just trying to come up with reasons they may think that number is achievable.

I would not call 230 miles right next door cause that's about how far Pigeon Forge is from Nashville.

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Friday, January 20, 2012 11:09 AM

Yeah, Gator essentially said that. Re-read it.

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Friday, January 20, 2012 11:23 AM

LOL - restated more clearly....without quite as many ellipses.

Splash Country has the substitution and complementary attendance effects of having a MAJOR theme park adjacent to the water park. There are nno major theme parks in Nashville - for better AND for worse.

This post brought to you by Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow. ;)

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Sunday, January 22, 2012 12:42 AM

ThemeDesigner said:
Consider Dolly's Splash country was the #11 waterpark in 2007 with only 491,00 visitors, yes it is very ambitious.
Nashville is greeting this with a great big "Meh". They are going to have to come out of the gate with a VERY appealing and unique product to attract any meaningful local attention, and I am mystified that they think this is a (out of state) tourist driver of any meaningful degree. Almost every area has a decent waterpark, who travels long distances for one?

But Dolly's park will have bigger "flotation devices" than the others.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012 5:53 AM

Wow did they missed the boat on this one, and are wasting valuable land close to Opryland. Waterparks are aimed mostly at children. Waterparks are a dime a dozen around this country. Hardly a person wil travel to another city to go to a waterpark.

The Grand Ol' Opry is not aimed at children. They needed to build something to turn Opryland into more of a resort with days of things to do for the target market that goes to the Opry. Now when you go to Nashville, you go to the Opry, go downtown, and there is little else to do in Nashville after that.

Opryland park did not fail, Gaylord developed a stupid business plan. They even have admitted closing Opryland park was a mistake.....to put in a dime a dozen outlet mall with destination appeal to tourists.

When Opryland park was in full operation, Opryland was more of a resort for everybody. The park had rides for kids, and shows for the target market that goes to the Opry. TNN shows were being filmed at Opryland and people of all ages could spend days on the property being entertained.

Nashville already has a waterpark for the local population. The property should really be used for entertainment for people of all ages, especially the ones that go to the Opry.

On my last visit to Dollywood i noticed the high percentage of the people going in the gate were not there for the rides, they were there for the shows. Dollywood has the right combination to keep everyone happy no matter what age. This property would be much better used for something like that.

I agree a snowpark in Nashville is a BAD idea. Even here further north it would be hard to keep snow on the ground all winter long to keep it operating.

Last edited by super7*, Sunday, January 22, 2012 5:54 AM
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Sunday, January 22, 2012 10:13 AM

You have some really good points there, Super7*. I'll almost agree, except that I believe that a waterpark is a very good idea. Dolly's waterpark is about a three-hour-drive from Nashville. I think everyone needs a good water park close to their home. :)

(I don't have a good water park close to my home.)

They need to just rebuild Opryland, imho.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012 1:26 PM

This is great addition to Nashville. I thought this would get mentioned, but here we go. Opryland was a well respected and operwted theme park. Made money hand over fist, and the Gaylords took care of their own house. Period. One on one, they park was hard to beat. It was the top park in the South, minus the Orlando parks.

With the TNN studios, Ryman Auditorium, Opryland Hotel, the General Jackson, and the others, they rapidly became a destination. On the flip side, Both Silver Dollar Cities were struggling, or better yet, they were in the shadows of Opryland. After investements by Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, and perhaps the worst advice ever given to the Gaylords, if you close the park and build a mall, you will make more money!

Fast forward to today, TNN was sold, the mall floods, and Nashville was left with a waterpark. Now its owned by Gary Story, who has a great track record, and its GM is Rick McCurlie. He did a bang-up job with Six Flags Ohio Worlds of Adventure, then proceeded to managed SF Great Adventure and terminate all the directors to hit his EBITA numbers after a soft season. He was then relieved personally from the new SF owners.

He ends up at Cypress Gardens, which also had a happy ending, and then on to Indiana Beach. Now at Nashville Shores, I am placing my bet on Herschend, who has become extremely good operators, given increased business after Opryland's closed. Given McCurlie's track record, again, I am banking on the new waterpark to all but put Nashville Shores out of business.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012 3:48 PM

Heh heh. You said "Gary Story" and "great track record" in the same sentence.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012 7:22 PM

In a year or so, I predict a new thread titled, "Nashville Gaylord Water Park, why?"

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Sunday, January 22, 2012 9:01 PM

Most importantly, can I buy an I heart Gaylord shirt, and will I have to turn it inside out if I visit Dollywood?

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Monday, January 23, 2012 4:16 PM

From my perspective, most every project announced in the U.S. in the last 15 years having an indoor "snow" element has failed to materialize. I wish them well on this endeavor. Dolly seems awfully good at keeping her word on new projects, but once you start talking about water rights and electricity like this, things can get out of your control.

/m

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