SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After an official groundbreaking, we now know a little more details about the new “experiential destination” coming to Sevierville right off of Exit 407.
Leaders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the city of Sevierville officially broke ground on the development Tuesday.
During the groundbreaking, the developers announced the theme for the first of three phases of the 200-acre property: a reimagined American road trip.
The first phase will only consist of about 60 acres and include a travel center, lodging, dining and more.
The unofficial name of the first phase is the ‘Roadside District,’ and will feature a nostalgic throwback theme of an American road trip with classic icons from Route 66.
“Family owned diners, the iconic Texaco Gas station, the Sinclair dinosaurs, the Holiday Inns, and of course the state and national landmarks that you might see along the way,” Mark Hubble, the CEO of Kituwah, LLC, said.
The $13.5 million property belongs to Kituwah, LLC, a company created by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to own non-gaming businesses, which means the new development won’t have a casino.
The goal of the new development is to be a gateway and “first stop” to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the 11 million visitors that travel through the area.
Chief Richard Sneed of the EBCI, said the project will be beneficial to his tribe because it’s creating a new avenue of long-term sustainability so they aren’t solely relying on casino profits.
He said the project will also be beneficial to the residents of Sevierville and Sevier County, as well as the visitors.
“Working together, we are uniquely poised to bring an experience not currently seen in Eastern Tennessee, providing an additional source for employment and tourism to the region. I look forward to continuing our work to build upon this relationship through this venture and future opportunities,” Sneed said.
Sevierville Mayor Robbie Fox said the project will be great for the city.
“This puts us in a position to be a true tourism destination. And I think this (phase one) project alone will be a tourism destination,” Fox said.
Sneed said he was truly grateful his tribe made this project happen, because larger projects like this aren’t agreed upon so quickly when their council members only have two year terms.
“Almost nothing happens in the second year, because it’s an election year and essentially people don’t want to make big ticket decisions because you’re in an election year. So the fact that there’s the joint leadership with our tribal council, the vice chief, and myself, to see projects like this, for shovels to go in the ground, it’s monumental and historic,” Sneed said.
Organizers said they are still looking for businesses and attractions to fill the space in this first phase.
They believe actual buildings will start going up by 2022.