Country superstar Dolly Parton announced this week that the group that helps run her namesake park, the Dollywood Co., plans $300 million in capital investments over the next 10 years, including new attractions, resorts and the creation of more than 2,500 jobs in Tennessee’s famed Great Smoky Mountains.
“I’ve always been a big dreamer, just like I’ve always wanted to do more for my home here in these beautiful Smoky Mountains,” the Country Music Hall of Famer said in announcing the park’s expansion. “This is where I nurtured my heart’s dreams, and I want to share more of them. My plans for the next 10 years are to expand my Dollywood properties to offer families more opportunities to play together and grow closer while they make their best memories. It’s truly the culmination of this country girl’s wildest dreams!”
The Fire Chaser Express dual-launch roller coaster will be the first new addition next March, followed by a 300-room DreamMore Resort, to open in time for the company’s 30th anniversary in 2015. The resort will sit on 100 acres just minutes away from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited such park in the U.S., and feature a design “reminiscent of the iconic Southern gathering spot, the front porch.” Some rooms on the ground floor will even have their own “private gated porches with outdoor access.”
DreamMore Resort will feature a variety of accommodation types (including a “celebrity suite” with decor inspired by Parton), a full-service restaurant fashioned after an old farmhouse, 8,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and an outdoor event area to accommodate groups as large as 500. All visitors can expect rocking chairs, hammocks and fire pits aplenty, as well as sweeping views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The new property joins Dollywood Cabins, launched in 2009, as the company’s second venture in the lodging industry. Additional unnamed resorts on park property are also in the works, as are more rides and entertainment offerings.
Craig Ross, president of the Dollywood Co., said the new additions would make the Dollywood theme park and Dollywood’s Splash Country water park one of the nation’s premiere family vacation destinations. “Dolly welcomes folks into her home and her heart, and our plans to grow and expand The Dollywood Company are steeped in her desire to bring families closer together by creating experiences delivered from the heart,” he said in a statement.
An independent economic impact study commissioned by the Dollywood Co. projected that Dollywood and its hospitality investments would add $150 million annually to the economy of Parton’s native Sevier County and the contiguous counties in eastern Tennessee. The study also found that the company’s 10-year investments would generate more than $7 million in state and local taxes.
The expansions at Dollywood come about a year after plans for the world’s first snow and water park in nearby Nashville fell through. Parton ditched the $50 million idea after partner Gaylord Entertainment Co. sold management rights for its iconic Opryland Resort & Convention Center to Marriott International Inc. (NYSE:MAR). Although Parton said she still hopes to open something in Nashville one day, the focus at the moment will be in her hometown, where the Dollywood Co. will spend more on its parks over the next 10 years than it has since the theme park was branded as Dollywood in 1986.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...