|By Roger Harris, The Knoxville
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Nov. 15, 2005 - A Wisconsin developer plans to start construction in the spring on a $100 million-plus hotel/resort/water park project in Sevierville following Monday's approval of a ground lease by the city of Sevierville Public Building Authority.
Wilderness Resort LLC, a family-owned business based in the Wisconsin Dells area, proposes to build a 264-room, six-story hotel and water park resort next to the city's planned 200,000-square-foot Events Center near the corner of Old Knoxville Highway and Gists Creek Road.
Under terms of the lease, Wilderness Resort will make annual lease payments starting at $183,813, said City Administrator Doug Bishop. Every five years the payments would be adjusted according to changes in the Consumer Price Index.
Construction of the hotel and water park resort will start in May and is expected to take 12 to 14 months to complete, which would be about the time the Events Center would open, said Pete Helland, co-owner of Wilderness Resort, a third-generation family business that pioneered the indoor water park concept in the Dells, a popular tourism area in southern Wisconsin.
The company's proposed Sevierville hotel and water park resort would have an indoor pool, outdoor water amusements, business center and one-, two-and three-bedroom condominium-style guest rooms with fireplaces and wireless Internet service.
All of the buildings would feature so-called modern mountain architecture, which makes extensive use of stone and timber interior and exterior building materials.
Wilderness Resort is still tweaking its plan, but the developer envisions a family-oriented water park that would feature water slides, a slow-moving river feature, wave pool and dry play areas. The hotel and resort would be connected to the Events Center by a shared courtyard. The developer's plans also include a restaurant, coffee shop and retail stores on the ground floor of the hotel. Sevierville's Events Center is part of a $182 million Central Business Improvement District project that includes several road improvement projects, construction of a parking facility to serve the Events Center, and improvements to the nearby Eagles Landing Golf Club.
Wilderness Resort also proposes building a second resort hotel on a separate 14-acre site southeast of the Events Center. The second project would have about 348 guest rooms and an 80,000-square-foot indoor water park.
"There are a lot of similarities between the economy of the Dells and the economy of Sevierville," Hellend said. "We're excited about the opportunity here in Sevierville. We've been working with city officials for about eight months and we're ready to get started." Initially, the first phase of Wilderness Resort's Sevierville project will employ about 200 workers. Long-term, Hellend expects perhaps as many as 1,000 jobs will be created as the development matures and expands.
Wilderness Resort planners have designed the project for expansion based in part on the company's experience in Wisconsin. In 1995 it opened the 75-room Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort in Wisconsin Dells. Over the past 10 years the hotel has grown to 443 rooms and the resort's original 30,000-square-foot watermark now covers an area larger than seven football fields.
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