Dollywood plans $300 million upgrade with hotel, roller coaster

Dollywood plans $300 million upgrade with hotel, roller coaster

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Billboards and Facebook posts have called it the biggest announcement in Dollywood history. (source: Dollywood.com) Billboards and Facebook posts have called it the biggest announcement in Dollywood history. (source: Dollywood.com)
During an official announcement Wednesday morning, Dolly Parton revealed plans for a $300 million project at Dollywood which includes a new roller coaster and a resort. During an official announcement Wednesday morning, Dolly Parton revealed plans for a $300 million project at Dollywood which includes a new roller coaster and a resort.
Gov. Bill Haslam and other dignitaries were on hand to make the announcement at Dollywood. Gov. Bill Haslam and other dignitaries were on hand to make the announcement at Dollywood.
An artist's rendering of the 300-room "Dollywood DreamMore" resort. (source: Dollywood) An artist's rendering of the 300-room "Dollywood DreamMore" resort. (source: Dollywood)
The FireChaser Express, opening in 2014, is what's described as the first dual-launch "family-style" roller coaster. (source: Dollywood) The FireChaser Express, opening in 2014, is what's described as the first dual-launch "family-style" roller coaster. (source: Dollywood)

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - A $300 million investment is planned for a new roller coaster and a resort hotel at Dollywood, Dolly Parton said Wednesday.

During an official announcement Wednesday morning, Parton revealed plans for the 10-year project.

Billboards and Facebook posts called the news the biggest announcement in Dollywood history.

"We're planning to invest over $300 million in the next 10 years to make this area and Dollywood one of the biggest and most popular destinations in the whole country," said Parton.

The first investment is what's described as the first dual-launch "family-style" roller coaster, expected to open in March 2014.

The FireChaser Express roller coaster launches twice, traveling forward and backward on a winding 2,427-foot track. The coaster launches from the loading station traveling from zero to 20 miles-per-hour in 1.1 seconds. As the journey ends, a backward launch from zero to 20 miles-per-hour sends the coaster back to the starting point.

Dollywood's DreamMore Resort is set to open in 2015. The opening is timed to coincide with the park's 30th anniversary.

The 300 room resort will be located on 100 acres near Dollywood Splash Country, and will feature a variety of accommodations, including fire pits, swings and hammocks, and story spots scattered throughout the grounds. Parton says the goal is to celebrate the "iconic Southern gathering spot."

The resort will also feature an indoor and outdoor resort pool complex, a spa, and a full-service farmhouse-style restaurant.

Parton says the "crown jewel" of the resort will be the 2,200 square-foot "Dolly's Suite Dreams" celebrity suite, with decor inspired by Parton herself.

"There will be a suite there on the top floor. It's my suite," said Parton. "And when I'm not there, people can stay in it. But it's really a huge space up there on the top floor, with other rooms that can open into it. You can almost have a whole family reunion."

At first, guests will be taken to and from the park by bus and shuttle service, but there are plans for the future.

"We did look at a monorail, so we are looking long term, when we think about three or four resorts and the people we have to move. You need different ways to do that. So for the future, who knows what's going to be coming," explained Amy Owenby, Vice President of Hospitality.

The Dollywood Company projects that the park and its added hospitality investments will add $150 million to the local economy annually.

More than $7 million in state and local taxes are also expected to be generated by the project, as well as the addition of more than 2,500 jobs in the hospitality and construction industries.

The park currently has nearly 3,000 employees.

Parton told 6 News in 2010 there were plans for a resort, but they were halted due to a downturn in the economy.

In that interview she said she still hoped to fulfill that dream.

In the 2010 6 News special program "Investing in a Dream: The Story of Dollywood," those close to Dolly also spoke of plans for the next 25 years.

They spoke of the responsibility that comes with being the biggest ticketed attraction in the state.

Parton says she hopes to build more resorts in the future, with DreamMore Resort's 300 rooms as only a beginning.

"This would be that middle family experience, and that's where the pricing is going to land. We think that's where we need to start with our first resort. Now as we launch multiples, we may have a luxury experience that has more amenities and is priced higher. Or we may have a more basic experience," said Owenby.

Gov. Bill Haslam and other dignitaries were on hand to make the announcement at Dollywood.

Haslam used the opportunity to announce an additional $8 million investment in tourism by the state.

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