Dollywood to build resort, add shows and rides
FILE - This Jan. 19, 2012 file photo shows entertainer Dolly Parton during a news conference in Nashville, Tenn., to announce plans for a water-snow park. Dollywood plans to open DreamMore Resort in 2015. It's part of a planned $300 million expansion to take place over the next decade. A new roller coaster, this one aimed at families, is scheduled to open in 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — To see the future of Dollywood, you need to borrow the vision of its chief imaginer, Dolly Parton.
In the near future, Parton sees a resort hotel lobby with a three-story window that frames Mount LeConte — one of the tallest peaks in the Smoky Mountains. Guests will be able to book a grand suite in the hotel that the entertainer uses when she stays in the Pigeon Forge theme park that bears her name.
All of that is future tense, but not very far away. The park plans to open DreamMore Resort in 2015. It's part of a planned $300 million expansion to take place over the next decade.
A new roller coaster, this one aimed at families, is scheduled to open in 2014.
The resort hotel has been Parton's dream ever since she affixed her name to the theme park 28 years ago.
"The thing we're most excited about is finally building our resort," Parton said Friday by telephone from the park in the Smokies foothills.
"We're starting out with a resort that has 300 rooms," she said. "Some of the rooms will accommodate up to six people in a family."
There will be a lot of "front porch spaces" at the resort. Parton noted that during her upbringing nearby, people tended to congregate on front porches or in the kitchen.
This artist rendering released by Dollywood shows a version of a proposed hotel in the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The park plans to open DreamMore Resort in 2015. It's part of a planned $300 million expansion to take place over the next decade. (AP Photo/Dollywood)
A fishing pond will be on the property where children can catch their first whopper and there will be fire pits where families can roast marshmallows.
People walking into the lobby will be greeted with a glass of lemonade in the summer and a cup of hot chocolate during winter months.
The total dollar investment in the next decade will exceed the company's spending on Dollywood so far, said Craig Ross, president.
"In 10 years' time, we will have spent more than we've spent since the inception back in 1986 ..." Ross said.
The plan includes multiple additional resorts as well as more rides and shows.
"It's the bigger scope of these attractions that we'll be adding that's different," Ross said.
The first of the new attractions will be Fire Chaser Express, scheduled to open next year. It's a ride described as exciting, but not as intense as the Wild Eagle or Dollywood's water coaster, RiverRush. Children of elementary school age will be able to ride it.
Research by Dollywood showed executives the resort will make a difference for many people looking to vacation in the mountains.