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.