Music icon, philanthropist, actress and author Dolly Parton’s business acumen is legendary. Co-owner of Dollywood, the eastern Tennessee theme park that sees nearly three million visitors each season and keeps 3,000 people on the largest payroll in the county, Dolly’s long been known as an economic powerhouse with vision and drive.
Her 2012 announcement that she would be in partnership with Gaylord Entertainment to build a water park next to a Gaylord hotel property in Nashville seemed like more canny business sense. It would have been Dolly’s second such park, the first having opened in 2001 near her childhood home of Sieverville. But not all was smooth sailing for the announced project.
In September of last year, Parton announced she would be pulling out of the water park project. The reason: her business partner had decided to get out of the hotel management business, selling those assets to Marriott, and get into pure real estate holding.
Dolly Parton said Friday afternoon that her Dollywood company will not take part in the development of a planned water/snow park near the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Citing Gaylord Entertainment’s upcoming departure from the hotel management business and conversion to a real estate investment trust, Parton said she had appreciated the cooperation of local and state government officials on the planned $50 million project but added that she needed to move on.
“Gaylord makes decisions that they feel are good for their company and their stockholders and I have to make decisions based on what is best for me and the Dollywood Company,” she said. “I think everyone knows I love Nashville and I hope the work we’ve already done will spark more family entertainment in Nashville.”
The demise of the water/snow park had seemed in the offing six weeks ago, when Parton said plans were in a holding pattern because of Gaylord’s agreement to sell its hotels brand and management to Marriott International for $210 million. Gaylord officials quickly countered to say they were still on board, but have since pulled the plug on from-the-ground-up development projects in Arizona and Colorado, saying their new REIT will focus on buying completed properties.
Months after breaking up with Gaylord and the Nashville project with its central Tenessee location, Dolly once again took it back home to her childhood haunt of Pigeon Forge, TN in the eastern side of The Volunteer State. In this case, “it” is a 100-acre, 300 room resort called DreamMore – named after her 2012 book of the same name.
Located just a stone’s throw from Dollywood, the 300-room Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort will sit on 100 acres and offer views of the Smoky Mountains. Centered on the rich traditions of storytelling, family and togetherness, the resort will feature many special touches including family sanctuaries like fire pits, swings, and hammocks plus story spots scattered throughout the grounds.
Showcasing design features and décor elements that celebrate the area’s natural beauty, DreamMore will offer an indoor and outdoor resort pool complex, a spa, and a full-service farmhouse-style restaurant. With an emphasis on encouraging family bonding time, the resort also features a family activities center where guests can secure reservations for a variety of adventures centered around wholesome fun, including hikes in neighboring Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is the second capital investment in a 10-year plan that includes more $300 million in future developments for Parton’s Dollywood properties. DreamMore Resort joins Dollywood Cabins as the company’s second venture in the lodging industry. Launched in 2010, Dollywood Cabins offers cabins two miles from Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country.
There she comes again.
(Photo credit: Alejo Castillo)