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Haslam, Parton Pair Up

Dolly Parton is planning to build the nation’s first snow and water park in Nashville, and taxpayers are going to help foot the bill — an unknown amount about which officials hemmed and hawed at a Thursday announcement.

Gov. Bill Haslam is promising Parton new road turnoffs and infrastructure grants for the country music star’s new amusement park planned to open summer 2014 in Nashville. Haslam said he didn’t know how much the state’s total incentive package for the new park would cost taxpayers.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean also signaled city support for marketing and infrastructure but, similarly, did not elaborate.

The amusement park, a product of Gaylord Entertainment Co. and Parton’s Dollywood Company, is so far unnamed, but officials said they believe the $50 million project will attract some half million visitors in its first 12 months of operation at a site near the Gaylord Opryland hotel off Briley Parkway. Parton and Gaylord CEO Collin Reed say it would create 450 jobs.

“If you think about it, the state lives off of sales tax,” Haslam told reporters after palling around onstage with Parton at the Grand Ole Opry. “And there’s no question this is something that’s going to draw people from outside the state, so I do think it’ll mean new dollars for Tennessee.”

Haslam said the development would build on the state’s tourism industry, one of the largest moneymakers in the state.

In addition to road work, the project will qualify for state FastTrack Infrastructure Development grants, Haslam said. Those are the same kind of grants that the state used to reel in companies like Volkswagen in Chattanooga.

Haslam said he wasn’t sure whether the project would qualify for an expansion of that program he has pitched this year. Haslam’s plan — SB 2206 — would specify that “funds be used in exceptional circumstances when the funds will make a proportionally significant economic impact on the affected community.”

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