As soon as word began to spread Tuesday that businessman Tom Boyd planned to build a fantasyland-type resort on 40 acres behind the Walmart in South Knoxville, social media lit up with comments both pro and con.
“Massive disaster,” predicted one poster. “Anything Tom Boyd touches turns to gold,” said another source.
Comparisons to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and other stories of Middle-earth, along with “Dungeons and Dragons,” were plentiful. But what Boyd’s vision of a peaceful, harmonious, bucolic resort most resembles is a mash-up of Alexander Key’s 1965 novel “The Forgotten Door” and Gene Roddenberry’s utopian world of “Star Trek” – with a few hobbit dwellings thrown in.
According to a press release from Rick Laney Marketing on Boyd’s behalf, Ancient Lore Village at Boyd Hollow will bring to life the environs and themes of Boyd’s first work of fiction: “The Bobbins – Outcast to the Inner Earth.” Boyd published the book last year and is offering free downloads to the first 1,000 people who visit ancientlorevillage.com.
Ancient Lore Village is to be a 40-acre resort with stylized homes and tree houses, a 150-seat restaurant, a 500-person meeting and event center and a 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater. Boyd is working to get rezoning approval, but he expects the resort to open in 2020 and to draw 200,000 visitors yearly (as if Chapman Highway traffic weren’t already a nightmare).
With an anticipated cost of $40 million, the resort at Nixon Road and Old Sevierville Pike will have 120 full-time employees as well as about 100 craftspeople demonstrating and selling their wares.
Boyd, father of University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd, envisioned in his book a “fantasy world where there is no negativity and people from all cultures and places live and work together in harmony.”
Said Boyd in the press release, “We want to bring this book to life, and that is why we’re creating Ancient Lore Village at Boyd Hollow. This resort is unlike anything else in the world, and it will draw people from all over to Knoxville.”
Ancient Lore Village will feature 100 guest homes designed to look like the dwellings in the book, which was illustrated by Knoxville-based artist Bobbie Crews. The homes will have “grass roofs, decorative exteriors and fully furnished interiors reminiscent of a fantasy world.”
There will also be 50 tree houses of one-, two- and three-bedroom units with balconies overlooking the village, as well as three luxury units with five bedrooms each – called “Bobbin Homes” – and balconies overlooking the entire property.
Miles of walking trails will connect the homes and event areas. Landscaping, water features and stone walls on the property will have an “ancient age” look. Employees will dress in costumes as characters from the book, and a gift shop and Artisan Center will allow local artists to demonstrate their craftsmanship and sell products.
A sheep pasture and a goat barn will play integral roles in village entertainment. Daily events will include sheep herding with dogs, concerts, plays and holiday activities. Boyd wants to encourage guests to interact and communicate without modern technology. There won’t be any TVs in the homes or motorized vehicles on the property, which will have no concrete or blacktop.
“Electric golf carts designed as ancient wagons transport guests to the various areas they want to visit,” says Boyd. “Parking is hidden from view, and roads are lined with trees to protect village views. Ancient Lore Village will also be a very dog-friendly place to stay.”
The press release says that at the highest point on the property, a tavern with a lookout platform will sit surrounded by covered fire pits. Guests can gather there to meet and talk while taking in panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Two additional bars and food areas with special food and drinks named after the book’s main characters will be in the valley.
“The village will reflect only good and togetherness,” says Boyd, CEO of Boyd Hollow Resorts Inc. “Everything is designed so that those who stay with us feel connected to each other.
“It is my goal to make this a worldwide destination resort. I would expect the Village to be a major advantage for my hometown, Knoxville. I also hope Ancient Lore Village at Boyd Hollow conveys Knoxville as a good place to live – one where people would be proud to settle.”