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ORLANDO-With tourist and hotel occupancy numbers on the low side and the general economy in the basement, Nashville, TN-based Dolly Parton Stampede Co. is placing a $25 million bet that its 14-acre, 128,000-sf, 1,200-seat dinner theater will be a hit when it opens in Orlando’s tourist corridor in November 2002.

Rebuffed last year by Orange County officials on a site at commercially dense and traffic-heavy Sand Lake and Turkey Lake Roads in south Orlando, the country singer’s company has purchased a tract at a less-congested location at 7950 Vineland Ave., off Interstate 4. The site is 10 minutes from the four million-sf Orange County Convention Center.

Terms of the land deal and the seller’s name were not disclosed. But area industrial market brokers familiar with the south Orlando submarket tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity the estimated price is $7.32 million or $522,720 per acre ($12 per sf).

The venture is being built at a development hard cost of $195 per sf. A staff of 250 will operate the venue.

Parton’s 15-year-old company is gambling that convention visitors and hotel guests will feed the dinner theater in a specialized segment of the entertainment industry that has a poor survival record in metro Orlando. Six dinners theaters have opened and closed here in the past five years due to low attendance.

“She has the name to draw the crowd and the deep pockets to carry her through these tough economic times but the question that still remains is how big a sell are dinner theaters today in Orlando’s smorgasbord of entertainment venues,” a theme park consultant not associated with the Parton deal tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

The entertainment-themed restaurant will be called Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. Admission is expected to be $45 per adult.

Other Dixie Stampede dinner theaters are in Pigeon Forge, TN; Branson, MO; and Myrtle Beach, SC. Company officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn a specific ground-breaking date.

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