'Festival Tennessee' Developer's Claims Flunk Truth Test
By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There are even more questions about that fantastic-sounding development promised for Spring Hill.
A developer unveiled his plan Wednesday for what's called "Festival Tennessee." So NewsChannel 5 Investigates put some of his claims to the "truth test" -- and flunked him on several of those claims.
"This is an incredible community with incredible people," Las Vegas businessman Dennis Peterson said as he unveiled his plans before reporters and community leaders.
His big announcement of a $750 million entertainment complex for Spring Hill included some big promises:
- "We have 80 restaurants coming."
- "We have a water park coming in, one of the largest in the United States."
- "We have two resort hotels."
- "We are contacting the NBA to try and bring an NBA team here."
- "We are going to be building Niagara Falls."
The claims reminded some folks of another man's big promises.
In the film "The Music Man," Professor Harold Hill promised a solution to a problem plaguing the town's youth -- not unlike Dennis Peterson.
"Tennessee has a high meth problem," Peterson said. "Maybe with a park like this with something to do and the staff we have, we can help to solve this problem."
Then there are some of his other claims.
Peterson said, "There are eight corporations. We do film production, animation. We are publishing two music magazines. A lot is coming to Spring Hill."
But the truth is that Peterson's companies never produced the film promised years ago with Michael Jackson.
In 2004, they announced plans to publish two music magazines -- Mainstream Music and Windstorm Christian Music. Neither ever published a single page.
Then, there's the proposed park's name.
"It is called Festival Tennessee," Peterson proudly boasted.
But a check of federal and state trademarks shows no one has bother to lock in the name "Festival Tennessee."
"How would you like to spend millions of dollars and then have someone open up another competing business across the street using your same name?" asked veteran attorney Gary Blackburn. "You would expect anyone spending three quarters of a billion dollars to do their due diligence, part of which would be to protect the name of the company."
Then there's a little problem of access.
Peterson says his park will open Thanksgiving of next year, but the only way to get from I-65 is a narrow, two-lane road -- and an exit is miles away.
"Obviously, we won't be able to serve a development like this on a road like Jim Warren Road," Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie said at the announcement.
But the Tennessee Department of Transportation says no one has ever contacted them about building an exit. It's a process that takes years and costs millions of dollars.
TDOT spokesperson BJ Doughty said, "New interchanges are fairly complicated. The first step would be a lengthy 'Interchange Justification Study', that would eventually have to be approved by the Federal Highway Administration. That would have to occur before any environmental impact studies, design, right of way acquisition, or construction. And obviously, there would have to be funding available for all of the above."
Peterson also claims to have been in contact about bring an National Basketball Association team to Spring Hill.
But an NBA spokesman tells NewsChannel 5 that "we have not been contacted."
In "The Music Man," Professor Hill did deliver on his promises. The question is: Will Dennis Peterson be able to do the same?
The NewsChannel 5 Investigates team also uncovered an eviction lawsuit that sought to have Peterson and his company evicted last summer from a small farm in Palm Beach County, Florida -- apparently because he wasn't paying the $8,000 a month in rent.
He filed a letter with a judge, asking that he be given time to move to Nashville.