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Opryland to become shopping mall

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The music will be the same, but most of the rides are going to be torn down at Opryland.

The 26-year-old Opryland USA theme park will close in January for a $200 million renovation that will turn it into an entertainment and shopping mall called Opry Mills, its operators announced Tuesday.The Grand Ole Opry country music show will continue on the 65-acre site on the banks of the Cumberland River, and the sprawling Opryland Hotel next door also will remain in operation.

But Gaylord Entertainment, which owns the park, said only a few of the 22 rides and dozen shows now offered at Opryland will be featured at Opry Mills. It hasn't been determined which rides will survive, spokesman Tom Adkinson said.

"It's sad to see the park go," said Mayor Phil Bredesen. "I have a 17-year-old. it's been part of bringing him up."

The new complex is projected to attract 17 million visitors a year, Gaylord officials said. The theme park attendance has dipped below 2 million annually in recent years during its 180-day season.

The separate Grand Ole Opry show has been presented continually since 1925 and at the current site since 1974.

The new $200 million, 1.1 million-square-foot facility will have 15 to 20 anchor stores and more than 200 retail stores, as well as theme restaurants and entertainment.

The closing of the park means the elimination of 275 full-time jobs, but Gaylord officials said the new complex eventually will employ 5,000 people in full-time and part-time jobs.