Dollywood pulls out of water park venture

Gaylord REIT conversion changes partner's plans, too

Updated with Gaylord comment

Dolly Parton said Friday afternoon that her Dollywood company will not take part in the development of a planned water/snow park near the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Citing Gaylord Entertainment's upcoming departure from the hotel management business and conversion to a real estate investment trust, Parton said she had appreciated the cooperation of local and state government officials on the planned $50 million project but added that she needed to move on.

“Gaylord makes decisions that they feel are good for their company and their stockholders and I have to make decisions based on what is best for me and the Dollywood Company,” she said. “I think everyone knows I love Nashville and I hope the work we’ve already done will spark more family entertainment in Nashville.”

The demise of the water/snow park had seemed in the offing six weeks ago, when Parton said plans were in a holding pattern because of Gaylord's agreement to sell its hotels brand and management to Marriott International for $210 million. Gaylord officials quickly countered to say they were still on board, but have since pulled the plug on from-the-ground-up development projects in Arizona and Colorado, saying their new REIT will focus on buying completed properties.

In a statement, Gaylord Chairman and CEO Colin Reed said his team is "deeply disappointed by the move" but will soldier on.

"We have enormous admiration for Dolly Parton and her company, and respect their decision," he said. "We continue to believe that a water park attraction on the property adjacent to Gaylord Opryland would be a valuable contributor to both our hotel and Nashville tourism. We will endeavor to find another quality partner so that this important tourism project can become a reality."