By The Nashville Tennessean
The news last week that Gaylord Entertainment Co. and Dollywood Co. are joining up to open a water and snow park near the site of the defunct theme park rippled through Tennessee like the chills you get from a roller-coaster ride.
Almost as quickly, there were those willing to throw cold water on the announcement.
The new, yet-unnamed park will be big, but not as big as Opryland. It is expected to draw 500,000 visitors in its first year, while Opryland averaged 2 million. It will employ about 450 people; Opryland employed far more.
More troubling for some observers is the fear that there is a price tag that hasn’t been revealed yet to taxpayers.
But this just may be what Nashville is looking for.
Consider the novelty of the concept: This park will operate yearround, offering water slides in the warm months and snow runs in the cold, extending recreational opportunities for residents in a region that gets little of its own snow.
Consider the fact that even if you revile Gaylord for taking away Opryland, its CEO, Colin Reed, now says that was a mistake; and the company has partnered with the company behind the highly popular Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge to make this happen.
As for the price tag, full details are yet to be disclosed, it is true. And if it turns out to be something less than a fair deal, then taxpayer advocates and taxpayers themselves will be right to cry foul.
Also, if there is some tab for Davidson County residents, and money is used from the state Economic and Community Development pie, this time the money is going to a venture that makes a lot of kids and therefore, their parents, very happy.
In the quarter-century of its existence, Opryland meant something special to residents of Middle Tennessee. It was always there when folks wanted carefree fun. And it made Nashvillians proud that they could offer that fun to visitors, too.
If the water and snow park can capture just a bit of that magic, it’s worth the ride.
The Nashville Tennessean