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Dollywood Building $300 Million Family Resort and Rides: Dolly Parton Theme Park Expansion In Works

By Julia Lynn Rubin | Aug 21, 2013 01:07 PM EDT

Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton's theme park Dollywood is about to undergo a $300 million expansion that will include new rides, shows and a family resort. (Photo : Reuters)

The Smoky Mountain Family Adventure Park, Dollywood, a theme park based on and imaged by country singer Dolly Parton, has a $300 million expansion in the works, featuring new rides, shows and a family resort in the Smoky Mountains, Yahoo! News reports.

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Dollywood plans to begin its 10-year expansion soon, starting with a new roller coaster aimed at younger children coming in in 2014, with DreamMore Resort coming the following year, a resort hotel that has been Parton's dream ever since she opened the theme park in the 1980s.

"The thing we're most excited about is finally building our resort," Parton said to Yahoo! News on Friday by telephone from the park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. "We're starting out with a resort that has 300 rooms. Some of the rooms will accommodate up to six people in a family." Parton imagines a three-story window at the front of the resort that frames Mount LeConte, one of the tallest Smoky Mountain peaks.

Amenities in the new resort will include "front porch spaces" for guests, a fishing pond, a fire pit where families can roast marshmallows and a giant glass of lemonade (summer) or hot chocolate (wintertime) to greet families in the lobby, and these new additions won't come cheap.

"In 10 years' time, we will have spent more than we've spent since the [park's] inception back in 1986," Craig Ross, president of Dollywood, told Yahoo! News. "It's the bigger scope of these attractions that we'll be adding that's different."

According to Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, the theme park and upcoming resort expansion is essential to the local economy. The city of Pigeon Forge has a population of 5,784 residents, and on an average day, 50,000 guests visit the park, so the news of the expansion is exciting for the area.

"We're basically 100 percent tourism," Downey said to Yahoo! News. "It's the only industry we have. It makes all of us in the city smile. Every year Dollywood has a new announcement, but this one is so big it dwarfs all the others."

Parton, who was born in Tennessee, is happy to be bringing money back to the local economy now that she's a country superstar.

"It is the most amazing feeling," she said. "People say you can't go home again. Well, I've certainly proved that wrong. The national park has always been great for campers. But people come and sometimes they like to say 'Well, let's get out of these woods for a minute and let's go down to Dollywood.'"

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