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Dollywood announces new roller coaster and hotel as part of 10-year expansion plan

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Published: August 21, 2013 at 7:41 AM

Dollywood this morning announced the first two projects in a planned $300 million in capital expansion over the next 10 years at and around the Tennessee theme park.

Dollywood

Opening next summer, Firechaser Express will be a dual-launch family coaster that travels forward then backward on the 2,427-foot track. The coaster will have a height requirement of just 39 inches, and will be themed to firefighters protecting the forest of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Then, in the summer of 2015, Dollywood will open its first on-site hotel, the DreamMore Resort. The facility will feature 300 rooms on a 100-acre site that also will include a spa, indoor and outdoor pools and a full-service farmhouse restaurant. The hotel will be within walking distance to the Splash Country water park and will offer complimentary transportation to Dollywood.

Updated, 8:30am: "We hope to build several resorts in the area and continue to build great new places to stay," Dolly Parton said during this morning's live announcement webcast. She also revealed that she will "star," in hologram form, as the Ghost of Christmas Past in a new holiday show later this year.

"Dollywood is investing big, to become a full-fledged family destination," Craig Ross, president of the Dollywood Company, said. The $300 million will be divided among new attractions and hotel development.

Readers' Opinions

From Tim Chatlos on August 21, 2013 at 10:21 AM
Awesome news! The resort will be a perfect fit for the park. And a new family coaster is always welcome, particularly something unique like FireChaser Express.
From Nick McKaig on August 21, 2013 at 11:45 AM
$300 million over 10 years? Sounds like chump change compared to the money going into Universal parks over the next two years. Seems like that would barely cover a couple of rides and a hotel.
From Russell Meyer on August 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Costs to build and develop in the Smokey Mountains is far less than doing so in Orlando or California. Certainly, $300 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what Universal is doing, but for a place like Dollywood, it represents a the same level of spending in the next 10 years than was spent on the park since its inception. Also remember that Dollywood is not installing attractions with the intricacy and intellectual property rights costs that Universal and Disney are.

Firechaser Express is a perfect example. An attraction like this in Orlando almost certainly would need to be themed around an existing property like Chicago Fire, Backdraft, or something else. At Dollywood, they can come up with a generic theme, put some elements on the train and station, and that's it. Intellectual property rights alone cost Disney and Universal billions (IOA reportedly spent $1 billion for the rights to Harry Potter). $300 million would build one big attraction in Orlando, but at a place like Dollywood, that can build dozens of attractions (even the huge and costly Wild Eagle only had a $20 million price tag).

Resorts are surprisingly inexpensive investments to build, but can be difficult and expensive to maintain. It requires employing an entirely differently-trained staff from standard theme park staff (something Universal understood when they subcontracted their resorts to Loews). The Smokey Mountains are already an extremely popular tourist destination (without Dollywood), so it makes sense that the resort will be able to make money year round even if guests are not spending all of their time in Dollywood.

This is a great sign for smaller theme parks, and perhaps will demonstrate to others (Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Tampa come immediately to mind) that having your own resort can inrease revenue.

From James Rao on August 21, 2013 at 1:16 PM
Great news! The folks at Herschend continue to be at the forefront of family entertainment with this announcement today. It is an exciting time to be a fan of both Dollywood and Silver Dollar City. I look forward to the next decade of growth at these terrific family destinations.
From Tim Chatlos on August 21, 2013 at 4:51 PM
Any word yet on where exactly the DreamMore Resort will be built in relation to the park?
From Gabriel Schroll on August 21, 2013 at 6:33 PM
I have never been to Dollywood, but I'm really happy to read that they're putting money into it, both in terms of new attractions and rides and more importantly, the on-site hotel. I think that really is the key, as people visiting a park (i would think) would rather stay right there on property if that choice is available.

When I went to DLR, I stayed at The Grand Californian. The Universal Loew's hotels are great (Portofino FTW), and any of the moderate+ hotels at WDW are nice.

As for Busch Gardens Tampa, if you've never been, you should be aware that it is a beautiful and exciting park - in the middle of the ghetto. Sorry to say, but I remember being slightly scared while only a mile from the park, thinking I'd made a wrong turn somewhere. I would love to see some of the run down slum purchased, torn down, and made into a family-friendly on-site resort, but I seriously doubt that has any chance of happening.

I don't know anything about Williamsburg, but I'd love to visit that whole area!

Anyway, good for Dollywood! For Universal or Disney, $300m may not be much. But it definitely is a huge deal for a small park like Dollywood and they deserve tons of kudos!

From 98.21.193.65 on August 22, 2013 at 9:50 PM
I'm a little confused about the layout of this upcoming roller coaster based on the little information I've read. I'll be glad when they finally show us a layout of what the track will be like so it will make more sense to me.
From Eric Fisher on August 25, 2013 at 5:50 PM
I feel for Dolly in this respect - given the fires currently burning across the US introducing Fire Chaser could not have come at a worse time. That said, I think is it a good fit for her park.

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