PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) – Dolly Parton and Dollywood management on Friday announced the biggest investment in an attraction in the theme park’s history – a brand new roller coaster that will be the biggest when it opens in spring 2023.
The $25 million Big Bear Mountain roller coaster, a six-acre attraction that will expand the Wildwood Grove section of the park, features three different launches over 3,990 feet of track. The project also marks the final stage of the half-billion dollar expansion announced in 2021.
Big Bear Mountain will reach speeds of up to 48 mph and a maximum elevation of 66 feet as it meanders through Wildwood Grove around waterfalls and, briefly, underground. It is also the first Dollywood ride to feature integrated sound with music and narration by the fictional Wildwood Grove caretaker, Ned Oakley.
The journey takes almost two minutes and can accommodate 20 passengers per train.
“Last year we said we were going to invest half a million dollars over the next ten years,” said Pete Owens, Dollywood’s vice president of marketing. “It’s obviously part of that investment strategy and we’re investing across the park, not just Wildwood Grove. But that’s phase two. You will therefore see another opportunity for expansion in this area during this period.
The theme of the Big Bear Mountain roller coaster, as Parton explained, is that guests are on the hunt for a “huge bear that’s been roaming these hills for years.”
“People around Wildwood Grove said they saw it,” Parton teased while wearing a rhinestone-adorned ranger outfit.
Parton added that she was thrilled with the new experience, but probably wouldn’t ride the roller coaster herself.
“Doesn’t that sound like fun?” she said, referring to a render of the ride. “You know I’m not going to get into it.”
“If I get on that thing, you’ll find my wigs on one of those trees,” she joked.
The launch of the new ride in spring 2023 coincides with the official opening of Dollywood’s newest resort: the HeartSong Lodge.
According to a case study released last year by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Dollywood has an annual economic impact of $1.8 billion a year and is credited with more than 23,000 jobs for the region.
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