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Gaylord, Dollywood Teaming with State of Tennessee, Nashville Metro on Snow Park

Press Release from Gaylord Entertainment and the Dollywood Company, Jan. 19, 2012:

Two of the biggest names in Tennessee tourism are teaming up to bring a major family entertainment zone to Nashville. Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE: GET) and Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Company have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a 50/50 joint venture to develop a 114-acre family entertainment zone adjacent to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. The Dollywood Company will serve as the operating partner. Phase one of the project is a yet unnamed approximately $50 million water and snow park, the first of its kind in the United States. A late 2012, early 2013 groundbreaking date is expected with the park opening slated for summer of 2014.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean joined Dolly Parton and Colin V. Reed, chairman and chief executive officer, for Gaylord Entertainment at today’s announcement at the Grand Ole Opry House at Gaylord Opryland.

“Tourism is the second largest industry in Tennessee, generating more than a billion dollars in tax revenue annually and employing more than 170,000 Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “This project will be a welcome addition to the wide variety of attractions and destinations across our great state, and I applaud the collaboration and spirit that has led to this announcement.”

“Music City has become a travel destination unlike any other in the country,” Dean said. “The addition of this family entertainment complex near Opryland adds a critical missing piece to our tourist offerings. It provides a unique leisure attraction that will further enhance our already booming hospitality industry, which is one of our city’s top private sector employers.”

The water and snow park will anchor the project which offers room for future expansion. The park will provide a mix of high energy water activities for the summer season and designated snow activities for winter play. Once open, first year attendance is projected at 500,000, a large portion of which will come from out of state, bringing in substantial tourism revenue to Tennessee and Nashville. Dollywood expects to employ 450 full- and part- time employees.

This proposed attraction furthers Gaylord’s focus on growing the leisure side of its business and continuing to drive revenue through its top-notch entertainment attractions throughout the year. The Dollywood Company is responsible for managing Dolly Parton’s Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, as well as her dinner theatre attraction, Dixie Stampede. Annually, these attractions attract approximately four million visitors and have won some of the industry’s most coveted awards including “world’s best theme park” and “America’s most beautiful water park.”

“I’m so excited about this opportunity,” Dolly Parton said. “I am confident that partnering my Dollywood Company with a great company like Gaylord will create something truly special. We’re all working on new types of entertainment to do in the daytime and nighttime for the whole family so we bring new folks to the area year round.”

“We are thrilled by the prospect of bringing to Nashville a family focused entertainment center with one of the preeminent theme park owners and operators in the country,” said Colin V. Reed, chairman and chief executive officer, for Gaylord Entertainment. “I am confident this proposed attraction, which will be a destination not only for our hotel guests but also for the entire Nashville community, will meaningfully enhance our transient and leisure strategy by providing a fun, family environment at the doorstep of the Opryland Hotel. With Dolly Parton’s country music legacy and strong ties to Nashville, we can think of no better partner for this venture than Dolly’s Dollywood Company.”

“We hope that some other developers with great ideas will join us for phase two of this project. We’re saying the water and snow park are the first phase, but who knows, if we see some great ideas we could be developing the entire zone by the time the snow and water park open. Wouldn’t that be great for Nashville and the state,” Parton said.

“We are in the early stages of planning and will make certain that any project we pursue is done so under the appropriate economic conditions and provides adequate returns for our shareholders,” said Reed. “We are reserving approximately 35 acres for expansion and complimentary regional attractions and we have been working closely with state and city officials to ensure we have the proper infrastructure agreements in place for the project to move forward. We are looking forward to working on the next steps of this project and to it becoming a valuable part of the Nashville tourism community.”

Based in the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is a 150-acre family adventure park which operates nine months a year (late March through December) and offers more than 40 rides and attractions; award-winning live entertainment featuring country, bluegrass, gospel and mountain music; and a dozen crafters authentic to the East Tennessee region. A family-friendly vacation destination, Dollywood also includes the 35-acre Dollywood’s Splash Country, voted America’s “Must-See Waterpark.” Dollywood offers all-inclusive vacation planning with a variety of overnight lodging options. For more information, call 1-800-DOLLYWOOD or visit dollywood.com.

Gaylord Entertainment (NYSE: GET), a leading hospitality and entertainment company based in Nashville, Tenn., owns and operates Gaylord Hotels (http://www.gaylordhotels.com), its network of upscale, meetings-focused resorts and the Grand Ole Opry (http://www.opry.com), the weekly showcase of country music’s finest performers for 85 consecutive years. The company’s entertainment brands and properties include the Radisson Hotel Opryland, Ryman Auditorium, General Jackson Showboat, Gaylord Springs Golf Links, Wildhorse Saloon, and WSM-AM. For more information about the company, visit http://www.GaylordEntertainment.com.

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Business and Economy Featured NewsTracker Tax and Budget

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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Press Releases

Dollar General Donates $85K to Books from Birth

State of Tennessee Press Release; April 25, 2011:

Dollar General Renews Commitment to Tennessee’s Imagination Library

Nashville, Tenn. (April 25, 2011) – – Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tenn., has again made a significant contribution to our state’s youngest citizens. Since 2005, the company known for their commitment to literacy has donated $495,000 to Tennessee’s Statewide Imagination Library program.

Dollar General’s most recent donation of $85,000 to the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) will primarily support the GBBF’s Distressed County Grant program. The program covers the cost of Imagination Library programs in counties where industry or an adequate donor database is absent or scant.

“The children of Tennessee are our most vulnerable citizens, and providing them with the opportunity to learn to read at a very young age benefits us all in the future,” said First Lady Crissy Haslam. “We are grateful for this generous gift to continue supporting our state’s children.”

Dollar General has been a statewide supporter of the Imagination Library program in Tennessee since the program’s statewide debut in 2005. Dollar General’s co-founder J.L. Turner was functionally illiterate when he started the company. Thus, literacy is an integral part of the company’s culture. Dollar General’s commitment remains strong, saying literacy is “the one gift that lasts a lifetime.”

“Reading is the single most important activity parents can do for their children to provide them with the tools necessary for a lifetime of learning,” said Denine Torr, Dollar General’s director of community initiatives. “We salute the mission of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation and their partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This program is helping enrich communities statewide.”

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was created in 1996 by Dolly Parton as a gift to the children in her hometown of Sevierville, Tenn. and was later expanded to the entire state with the creation of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation. Just $24 annually provides for the purchase and delivery of 12 books to one child. This cost is split evenly between a non-profit sponsoring organization in every Tennessee county, and a state budgetary allocation administered by the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation.

Currently, 57 percent of all Tennessee children birth to five are registered in the Imagination Library and are receiving free books in the mail. More than 213,000 Tennessee five-year-olds have already “graduated” from the program. The statewide program has helped deliver more than 12 million books to Tennessee children since the creation of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation in 2004.

About the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation:

The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation® was established in 2004 and currently serves Imagination Library organizers in all 95 counties by providing fund-raising, public relations, and other support. To learn how to support your county’s Imagination Library program, or for information on how to register a child, visit www.GovernorsFoundation.org or call toll-free, 1-877-99-BOOKS.

About Dollar General:

Dollar General is a leading discount retailer with more than 9,300 neighborhood stores in 35 states. Dollar General stores provide convenience and value to customers by offering consumable basic items such as food, snacks, health and beauty aids and cleaning supplies, as well as basic apparel, house wares and seasonal items at everyday low prices. The company has a longstanding tradition of supporting literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $53 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 2.9 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy, a general education diploma or English proficiency. To learn more about Dollar General, visit www.dollargeneral.com.