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VOL. 36 | NO. 4 | Friday, January 27, 2012
Water Park owners welcome competition from Dolly, Gaylord
By Hollie Deese
The announcement of a new $50 million water and snow park being built by Nashville entertainment giants Dolly Parton and Gaylord would seem to be great news for all of Nashville. More tourists, 450 new jobs and positive national exposure – who couldn’t rally around this news?
How about the owners of Nashville’s existing water parks, Nashville Shores and Wave Country? Surely they are feel like a mom-and-pop business watching a Walmart pop up next door.
Actually, even they seem excited.
“This development will help bring new visitors to Middle Tennessee,” says Daniel Strobel, director of marketing for Nashville Shores. “We have a first-class water park at Nashville Shores and anticipate many of these new visitors coming to our park.”
The 385-acre facility is about to enter its 15th year of operation. Major upgrades were made just last year with the addition of a four-story water treehouse and sprayground. Nashville Shores has three pools, multiple waterslides, kayaks, a beach and cruises on Percy Priest Lake. There is also an RV park, campground, cabins and a 310-slip marina, options that simply won’t be available to the landlocked Gaylord/Parton development.
Wave Country, just two miles from the new development, would seem to be in even more jeopardy. But Jackie Jones, spokesperson for the Metro Parks Department, which owns and operates the park, says the new water/snow park will complement Wave Country.
“We don’t think it will have a significant impact on Wave Country,” she says, pointing out that Wave Country, which began operations in the 1970s, is adjacent to a skate park, disc golf course, Two Rivers Golf Course and connected to the Shelby Bottoms and Stones River greenways.
“We think, if anything, that it will have a favorable impact and put more people in that area. And the more options people have the more likely they are to branch out, so we see this as a good thing.”
Parton announced last week a partnership between Dollywood and Gaylord Entertainment to bring the new theme park to Nashville. The unnamed water-and-snow park will have an initial investment of $50 million and will be developed on 114 acres across Briley Parkway from Gaylord Opryland Resort, with 35 acres reserved for future expansion.
“We hope that some other developers with great ideas will join us for phase two of this project,” Parton says. “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?”
Groundbreaking will occur toward the end of 2012 or early 2013. The park is expected to provide a mix of water activities during the summer and snow activities in the winter. The first year attendance, possibly in 2014, is projected at 500,000. Dollywood released initial employment numbers of 450 full- and part-time employees.
The area around Opryland has struggled since the flood in May 2010 that shut down the hotel for more than six months. Opry Mills is scheduled to reopen in March, nearly two years after the water receded. And the Opryland USA theme park once associated with the area closed in 1997.
“We think it will definitely be very helpful for business in this area,” says Lou Anne Wheeler, a manager at the nearby Jellystone Park Camp and Resort. “We just went to an RV show in Huntsville and everyone who stopped at our booth said they heard about the new water park, so the excitement is everywhere already.”
Jellystone Park has 230 camping sites, and Wheeler says they are full during CMA week and would like to see more people stay there and enjoy the new theme park.
“We anticipate we will get busier when it opens because we are a family-oriented campground to begin with. We are pretty excited about it,” she adds.