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Proposed $600 million Pigeon Falls Village in Tennessee
 Includes 3 Hotels with 400 room Each and 800 Condos

By Roger Harris, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

May 8, 2005 - A group of Florida businessmen and investors will raise the curtain Monday on Pigeon Falls Village, a $600 million retail, recreation, entertainment, hotel and condominium project on the former Jake Thomas farm in Pigeon Forge.

The project would be built on 114 acres north of Teaster Lane and east of the Belz outlet shopping center. When completed the village would employ 2,000 to 2,500 full-time workers.

Two hundred business people and elected officials from the Pigeon Forge area have been invited to attend a presentation on the plan at 11:30 a.m. at the project site, said Michael McCall, president of Strategic Leisure Inc., the Maryland-based designers and developers of the village.

The project is owned by Pigeon Falls Village LLC, an Orlando, Fla.-based investors group.

The village will combine theme park and resort elements with entertainment and recreational facilities to create a "totally immersive Smoky Mountains experience" unlike any other project in Pigeon Forge, McCall said.

"We're both broadening and deepening the choices people have in Pigeon Forge," McCall said.

Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster said the project would provide a significant boost to the local economy.

"It's a great project and it definitely will have a strong impact on the city economy. It can conceivably do for us what Dollywood has," Teaster said.

The principals of Pigeon Falls Village include Bernard Kaplan, the project's managing partner, and Alan Ginsburg and Lewis Shassain. The three businessmen also are among principals of Riverwalk Park LLC, which previously announced plans to build a retail and movie theater complex on another portion of the former Jake Thomas farm south of Teaster Lane.

Pigeon Falls Village and the Riverwalk Park projects have many of the same owners and will be complementary, but they are separate developments, McCall said.

Riverwalk Park LLC's previously announced project includes a so-called lifestyle center anchored by a $10 million, 12-screen movie theater owned by Marquee Cinemas Inc. of West Virginia.

As for Pigeon Falls Village, about half of the total capital investment, or about $300 million, will go into building resort-type lodging and privately-owned condos and related facilities such as parking garages, McCall said.

The site plan shows three hotels, each with about 400 rooms. In addition, the plan calls for 800 condos, which would sell for about $225,000 to $599,000.

Another $100 million has been budgeted for entertainment and recreation facilities, including a water park, a 70-foot manmade waterfall, a miniature golf course and an interactive entertainment facility called "Reality Play."

McCall described "Reality Play" as a "theatrical dramatic attraction" that uses high-tech digital production techniques to create the illusion of the audience being on stage.

"What happens is an actor comes out and as he or she starts telling a story the room becomes a reflection of that story and the audience gets the feeling of really being on stage and in the set. It's a very powerful experience. The room changes as the story evolves," McCall said.

"Reality Play" will be part of Reunion Rec Room, a so-called family entertainment facility, which also will offer bowling, billiards and other participatory games for adults and children.

About $150 million is earmarked for development of retail and restaurant buildings. Retail businesses that lease space in the village are expected to spend $50 million on tenant improvements, McCall said.

Everything in the village will be designed around a Smoky Mountains theme, said Bruce Laval, executive vice president with Strategic Leisure.

The intent is to immerse visitors in the mountain experience wherever they are and no matter what they're doing in the village, said Laval, who retired in 2001 from The Walt Disney Co.

Laval spent 30 years with Disney, most recently as executive vice president of operations planning and development for resorts and parks worldwide.

With its resort hotels, restaurants, shops, water park and other entertainment facilities, Pigeon Falls Village may seem a repeat of existing commercial development in the Pigeon Forge area, but it's not, Laval said.

The difference is Pigeon Falls Village "is all put together on a pedestrian scale in a contained thematic environment," Laval said.

In other words, visitors can walk to everything in the village instead of, say, hopping in the car after lunch and driving to the water park.

"Pigeon Forge is already a well-established tourist destination and what people want when the come there is the Smoky Mountains experience. What we're doing is further enhancing that experience," Laval said.


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Copyright (c) 2005, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

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