Pigeon Forge TN Guide has uncovered even more information about Dollywood's 2019 expansion. Visible attractions in the 5 acre area are a swinging ship, family inverted roller coaster, and a large building among other smaller attractions.
These plans come from a town environmental hearing, so are very primitive in nature. Most of the attention from the industry so far is around the colored tube structure, which resembles a roller coaster. Many people have already imagineered crazy ideas of what the coaster's concept could be, but this is a clone layout of a standard Vekoma 453m family suspended coaster. A similar ride is Orkanen in Denmark, seen below:
This model has not made an appearance in North America yet. While it is a cookie cutter addition, Herschend's theming will make up for it. What is most intriguing to me however, is the large warehouse-like building in the background. Could Dollywood finally be getting an immersive dark ride that it has been missing for years?
Many enthusiasts look over the fine details and just rampage about various coaster models and statistics, while proposing impossible features.
Another interesting thing to note of is the flat tracked ride in the upper right corner of the document. It seems really short for something along the lines of an antique car ride or miniature train, but I am going to dig up an idea from the old guest surveys.
Flashback to 2012, when Herschend operated Darien Lake in New York. They created a family area named Rowdy's Ridge and added a popular attraction called Moose on the Loose. This ride is a single rail powered attraction featuring bucking moose that travel through different scenes.
While it is a unique interactive ride, its manufacturer Metallbau estimates its hourly capacity at only 240 riders per hour. A ride like this would surely be a hit with families, and not be able to meet the demand of the park without modification, such as Omni mover loading.
Although this area is on the smaller scale, there are still a lot of possibilities to be excited about. While most of the immediate attention will go to the coaster, the unknowns are what makes this for me.
According to Pigeon Forge TN Guide, plans have been leaked that may hint as to what Dollywood may be receiving for their "largest expansion yet" in 2019. Park officials have stated at a local planning meeting, that the area will be around 5 acres large, and feature 8 new attractions.
These attractions are accompanied by a restaurant, restrooms, water features, and shade structures. Once what was thought to be along the lines of a roller coaster or major thrill ride now seems more like a family or children's area investment. This area may reflect an addition like Fireman's Landing at Silver Dollar City a few years ago. While I am hopeful that at least one or two rides will be thrill rides, it doesn't seem like the case.
If Dollywood still has a major roller coaster in the plans for the near future, it is kind of contradictory to market this as "the largest expansion yet". Even though Herschend Parks are more geared towards family fun, for a park with rides like Wild Eagle and Lightning Rod, a family area is a miniscule feature, even if well themed.
I won't rag on this addition too much until we see the specifics of it, but I am hopeful that it will have a better theme or attractions than SDC's did. While I am a fan of Firechaser Express, having a whole area themed to firefighting is kind of generic and unappealing.
Dollywood's locals seem mixed about this news so far, with some wanting more kiddie rides and shows, and others wanting more thrill rides.
It's no secret that Dollywood is looking to make 2019 one of their best seasons ever in capital investment. The park is hyping their largest expansion yet, although they haven't given much info on what it could possibly entail. This plot of land is enormous. Based off of Coaster 101's map above, it could be nearly a quarter of the land that the park owns in total.
While we don't have much to go off of yet, let's look at some possibilities for this expansion land:
Large Scale Roller Coaster
Believe it or not, Lightning Rod will be 3 years old after this season. Since Dollywood announced their major investment plans a few years ago, they have installed 4 roller coasters (Wild Eagle, Firechaser Express, Lightning Rod, and Whistlepunk Chaser). It would not be a shock to see them looking to install another one next season.
Two coaster types that they are missing are a large scale hyper coaster and an inverted roller coaster. By building a 200+ foot tall roller coaster, Dollywood would truly be putting their name on the map as one of the "big players" in the industry. With Lightning Rod and a great supporting cast of roller coasters, I'm going out on a limb and saying that this is one of the big things that the park is missing. Imagine a large hyper coaster jumping over the trees then hugging the terrain for the second part of the course. That would truly be stunning.
Any gimmick is possible though, as an inverted coaster also fits the bill as something totally new to the Herschend chain. I do feel like the park already has the flying aspect covered by Wild Eagle, but it remains a possibility. I would lean towards this being a thrill coaster however, because the park already does have 3 roller coasters geared towards families with children.
A roller coaster would not have to be the sole investment of this expansion, but it could be the large marketing point.
I would find it hard to believe if this was going to take up the entirety of the land, but it could be a possibility that with the growth of Dollywood, park officials could be looking to expand the amenities. With the construction of DreamMore resort in 2015, Dollywood has made it clear that they believe the park and surrounding attractions should be a multi-day vacation.
Keeping in tradition with the park's outdoor and backwoods themes, some guests may prefer a cheaper, and more wilderness type of overnight option. Camping is big in the region, and RV rentals, campsites, and cabins could offer more capacity for guests, but also a more price friendly option. A robust camping experience with many different activities could be in the park's future.
Dark Ride and Family Area
Another hole in Dollywood's lineup is a major, immersive dark ride experience. For a park whose main focus is families, it is kind of disappointing for their only dark ride to be the indoor roller coaster, Blazing Fury.
Dollywood could create a new family area, similar to Fireman's Landing at sister park, Silver Dollar City with many rides and attractions for the family. The dark ride would be the main attraction, and it could feature an interactive "shooting game". A similar example is SDC's Flooded Mine ride, but taken at a much larger scale.
These are just some brainstorms based off of what the park has, and what its missing. It's clear that the park is looking for this to be a major part of their history, so don't expect them to disappoint. I have heard an idea of the new section being themed after a ski resort, seeing the Pigeon Forge area is littered with these types of attractions. Some have even mentioned that Dollywood could be interested in building ski attractions to become more of a year-round resort.
We will be following this project, and keeping you updated with any updates.