The developers of a grand hotel and conference center planned for the Prince George's County riverfront announced yesterday that the $560 million complex will be called Opryland Hotel Potomac in a nod toward their country music roots.
But officials for Gaylord Entertainment Co., a Nashville-based company that owns the Grand Ole Opry and such diverse interests as a Christian music label, a sports management firm and cable television networks, said the hotel at the National Harbor resort will have an Americana theme that stresses Betsy Ross over Loretta Lynn.
The developers also pledged that the complex will generate economic benefits for the entire state, including 2,000 permanent jobs, $27 million a year in county and state taxes, and opportunities for minority-owned businesses.
County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) called it "an extraordinary time" for Prince George's County and for the state. Gaylord had been looking at sites in Loudoun County and in Alexandria.
"I spent an entire lifetime in this community waiting for a moment like this," Curry said yesterday at a flashy news conference announcing the deal between Gaylord and National Harbor developer Milton V. Peterson.
Peterson, who bounced around a stage in front of a backdrop of music videos and artists' drawings of the complex, said he had delivered on a pledge made three years ago when his Fairfax County-based company bought 534 acres of land just south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and proposed to build an upscale resort atop a former sand and gravel mining operation.
"We're here to celebrate a vision come true, a promise made and a promise kept," Peterson said.
An agreement between Peterson and the county provides some of the same perks to local residents and businesses as those negotiated during a deal to build the Washington Redskins stadium in Landover.
Under the terms of the agreement, at least 30 percent of all construction contracts must go to local minority-owned businesses, and 30 percent of all workers employed at the Opryland Hotel must be county residents.
The Peterson Cos. also is required to build a business incubator as part of any office complex built at National Harbor to encourage new hospitality-based ventures. Gaylord must provide internship opportunities for local students at the Opryland Hotel.
The Opryland Hotel Potomac will be the only hotel in the Washington area with direct access to the water and will feature five acres of shops and restaurants under a glass atrium. From the river, the atrium will be mostly obscured behind brick structures that borrow from Old Town Alexandria architecture.
Some Alexandria residents yesterday took a dim view of a project that would loom across the river. But many Prince George's residents raved about the prospects for shops and restaurants like those found in luxury hotels.
"We're just in awe of the splendor," said David Hughes, a Fort Washington resident whose property is adjacent to National Harbor. "It's more than we expected, and more is better. Less is bad."
A host of state leaders attended a news conference yesterday that was part of a day-long series of activities at Oxon Hill Manor.
The Grammy-nominated gospel singers Anointed and country music star Brad Paisley performed at the event, attended by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), among others.
Before singing his No. 1 country hit, "He Didn't Need to Be," Paisley told county officials that Gaylord would be a good corporate friend to them.
"I think you're going to like your hillbilly neighbors, folks," Paisley said.
Curry later told Paisley that such neighbors were not a new experience for him. "I grew up in Prince George's County," Curry said. "I had hillbilly neighbors."
Company officials were sensitive to concerns that a southern-style hotel would not sit well with the majority-black county. They said the theme here would be different, as it is at two other hotels the company is building, in Florida and Texas.
Opryland Hotel Florida, for example, has three themed areas, one focused on the Everglades, another on Key West and a third on St. Augustine.
"We are not transporting the same attractions in Nashville to Washington," said David Jones, president of Gaylord's hospitality group. "We just want to pick up the geographic flavor of what this region stands for. We want to expand the Washington, D.C., experience to the hotel."
County leaders have promised to help finance the cost of a parking garage and water and sewer utilities through revenue bonds that allow the developers to borrow against taxpayer money.
Glendening pledged the funding necessary to improve access to the site. Officials said exact dollar amounts for the county and state contributions will be worked out in the coming weeks.
"This is a first-class facility," Miller said. "We're going to make this happen."
CAPTION: Opryland Hotel Potomac will feature an atrium behind riverfront brick structures.
CAPTION: The Opryland Hotel in Nashville has lush indoor gardens covered with glass domes where guests can roam, eat and shop. Gaylord Entertainment is planning a 2,000-room Opryland Hotel on the Potomac in Prince George's.