Dollywood draws between 2.4 and 2.5 million visitors annually while Splash Country attracts between 400,000 and 500,000 visitors annually, said Dollywood's public relations manager Pete Owens.
In comparison, a proposed Bible park for Rutherford County is expected to draw about 800,000 to 1 million visitors annually.
Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess said if the Bible park locates in the county, the county will receive all of the local option sales tax from the attraction.
"Although it's yet to be determined, it's probable it could be in the county," Burgess said last week. After the basic services such as roads and water, Burgess doesn't believe the park will require many county services.
The impact of Dollywood and other tourist attractions in Sevier County, located near Knoxville in upper East Tennessee, shows the county collected $59 million in sales taxes in 2006, the County Technical Advisory Services reported. Sevier County's population is 80,000.
In comparison, Rutherford County with a population of 218,000 collected $8 million more or $67 million in sales taxes in 2006, CTAS reported.
Due to the unusually large sales tax collections for tourism, residents in Sevier County pay $1.34 per $100 of assessed value for property taxes while residents in Rutherford County pay $2.35, CTAS reported.
Status of the project
President Steve Benefield of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce said developers of the proposed Bible park are determining the next steps. They plan to meet with the chamber and community leaders to "help us understand what's going to be required on our end."
The park will need roads, water and sewer at the site and a tourism zone approval by the state.
If constructed in the county, the park is expected to bring visitors from the U.S. and all over the world who will generate sales tax revenues at the park, hotels and motels and related business owners.
"I think at the end of the day we have to consider all potential avenues in order to make this project viable for the community and for the investment company that's going to be owning it," Benefield said.
Leaders of the state, county and chamber must weigh if the potential revenues from a park will balance the incentives needed.
"For example, if the industrial board does have to consider an incentive for this operation, it will be up to the county leadership to document the exact return on investments that can be returned to the community," Benefield explained.
Exact numbers are being detailed now and will be presented to leaders within a few weeks to make a decision.
Benefield has received extremely positive comments from the business community whose members believe they will benefit from a theme park project.
"The biggest thing we have to do is gather information for a final presentation," Benefield said.
Lisa Marchesoni may be reached at 869-0814 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.