Fee agrees to buy Welcome Center property | News

PIGEON FORGE — David Fee could be bringing a new attraction to a familiar area, as the city has agreed to sell him the vacant Welcome Center on the Parkway and he plans to use it to build a new, high-end attraction.

The city relocated its Welcome Center in 2020. City commission had been looking to sell the building since then, but had been searching for a buyer that would use it as an attraction.

They issued more than one request for proposals before reviewing Fee’s proposal earlier this year.

Monday, commissioners entered an agreement to sell Fee the property for $2 million.

“It’s good to have somebody to buy it like David Fee and his group,” Mayor David Wear said.

“We know what David Fee has done in Pigeon Forge for years in the hospitality and attraction business.”

The property is on the right side of the Parkway immediately after traffic from Sevierville enters town. It’s right beside the former site of the Smoky Mountain Opry, which Fee owned and operated for years along with his partner Jim Hedrick.

They were responsible for several of Pigeon Forge’s popular theaters for years, but sold the businesses to Dolly Parton in 2019.

Fee told the commission earlier this year that he was happily retired, but he’s been working on the new project with his daughter.

Tuesday, he stressed they’re entering the inspection phase of the agreement — reviewing the property and making sure that they can make it work for an attraction.

“It’s one of the most difficult pieces of property I’ve ever seen but it’s also a wonderful piece of property. It’s the first thing coming into Pigeon Forge and it’s in a row I love.,” he said.

Fee once owned the nearby Hard Rock Hotel, and he and Hedrick owned the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Theater in that area as well.

His proposal to the commission earlier this year called for what he called an immersive dining experience, with video screens on all walls and other elements to create something he doesn’t believe has been offered anywhere else.

“Nobody’s done what we’re proposing,” he said. “This is really a high end dining experience that is quite different.”

The sale agreement acknowledges Fee’s plans could change from what he initially proposed, but calls for the property to be used as some form of attraction.

“The developer in no event shall use the property as a welcome center, visitor center, chamber of commerce, time share office, or any similar type use,” the agreement states.

“The developer is to develop the property to be a tourist attraction intended to draw visitors to the city.”

Fee said that’s his intention for the site, but there are a number of details to consider before they’re ready to formally announce their plans.

After all his experience at creating attractions in Pigeon Forge, he said he’s confident they’ll land on something that will make him and the city proud.

“I love the neighborhood,” he said. “I’m proud to build an attraction that would fit in the scope.”

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