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DALLAS-Gaylord Entertainment Co., headquartered in Nashville, has secured $200 million in interim financing from Merrill Lynch Mortgage Capital Inc. that will be applied to Opryland hotel construction projects in Florida and Texas.

The funding, which also will be used for general corporate purposes, is for the 1,500-room project in Grapevine, TX and a 1,400-room Opryland Hotel Florida. The Florida hotel is set to open Feb. 2, 2002, and Grapevines in spring 2003. The $200-million financing is being secured by the 2,884-room Opryland Hotel Nashville.

The FL and TX hotels boast 400,000 sf of meeting and exhibit space, promoting a strategy to enable convention groups to rotate meetings among all Opryland-branded properties, according to Dave Jones, president and CEO of Gaylord’s hospitality group. The Florida development hopes to lure travelers from the Northeast while Texas is geared to attracting those in the West.

“Our clients are speaking volumes by booking business even as construction continues. We have almost 600,000 room nights under contract in Florida already, and we have reserved another 700,000 room nights for contracts and proposals in negotiation,” Jones says.

The Merrill Lynch interim loan is a precursor to finalizing longer-term financing, says Denise Wilder Warren, Gaylord’s senior vice president and CFO. The company presently is negotiating to seal contracts related to the hotel constructions and anticipates closing on the pacts in the next several months.

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