New Dollywood Roller Coaster in 2016
UPDATE – we now have an official announcement and details posted in a separate article, which you can see by clicking here. We’re leaving the article below with our predictions and rumors we shared along the way leading up to the official announcement…it was a fun ride leading up to the announcement and now we’re looking forward to the REAL ride!
Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee has been on a roll in recent years with all of the additions and expansions they are making, and we heard quite a rumor earlier this year about Dollywood major announcement for 2016. We’ve kept that rumor quiet for as long as we could (not easy!)…until now! There have been pieces of information slowly leaking out to the public and so in this article we will line up all of those sources to reveal what huge new attraction Dollywood will announce this summer and open for the 2016 season! You ready? Here we go!
First of all, there had been rumors swirling for about a year now about Dollywood building a new roller coaster. The question was where it would be located and how big would it be. They opened the “family friendly” FireChaser Express roller coaster in 2014, which quickly became popular…but not a “ticket seller” like Wild Eagle was when it opened in 2012. Needless to say, Dollywood needed a “big ticket” attraction to fill their park and new DreamMore Resort with customers for years to come.
So that’s where the rumors and speculation started…now let’s look at the facts!
Public Hint #1 (Added April 2)
At the ACE No Coaster Con 2014 in Chicago, Pete Owens (Director of Public Relations at Dollywood) spoke about Dollywood’s growth (mostly about the FireChaser and DreamMore Resort), but at exactly 21:35 into the video below he says, “…but in ’16, you’ll see another attraction, a major attraction, at Dollywood. I mean in the Wild Eagle price-tag range.”
Now, Wild Eagle cost approximately $20 million to build, so we’re not talking about a small attraction coming…this is going to be big…possibly even bigger than Wild Eagle.
Public Hint #2
At the ACE Eastcoaster 2015 event on February 7, 2015 Dollywood’s PR Manager, Pete Owens, presented this extremely short teaser for the new 2016 ride. The video shows a hot rod revving its engine, squealing its tires, leaving a trail of fire, and a license plate spinning that says “DW-2016”. Check it out below in this video posted by The Coaster Crew:
Public Hint #3
So, now you’ve seen a video of a hot rod teasing the 2016 ride. Now check this out…a Trademark for the phrase “SHOT ROD” was filed on March 19, 2015 by Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation, which owns Dollywood. The description of the trademark states that is “Entertainment services in the nature of an amusement park ride, namely, a roller coaster with a classic car theme.” So is Dollywood planning a $20 million roller coaster with a hot rod theme called “Shot Rod”? See the trademark for yourself in the link below.
Public Hint #4
On the opening day of Dollywood’s 2015 season (March 20), Dollywood Co. President Craig Ross mentioned what he said was a “a very special attraction for 2016.” He went on to say, that it is “the biggest single investment of one attraction that we’ve made in our 30-year history — the biggest. Plans are underway and coming together nicely.” Wow…Wild Eagle set the bar at $20 million…and this is going to be bigger?! That’s straight from the president of the Dollywood Companies!
Ok so now we’ve pieced together that the new ride is most likely going to be a roller coaster (why else would Dollywood show up at a coaster convention and talk about it?), have a hot rod theme, be called “Shot Rod”, and cost more than $20 million to build making it the biggest single attraction in the park’s 30 year history. Wow. Ok, but where will it be located? Here comes hint #5!
Public Hint #5
Guy Wantieze of Vision Engineering and Development Services presented the site plan for the new Dollywood attraction at the March 24, 2015 Pigeon Forge Regional Planning Commission meeting and received approval. This gave them approval to start clearing land and bringing this new ride to life.
Public Hint #6
In Jukebox Junction (the 50’s section of the park), Cas Walker’s old filling station just beside Rockin Roadway (the classic car ride mostly for children) has been completely removed. I mean completely. Check it out in the pictures below.
This is what Cas Walker’s use to look like:
This is what Cas Walker’s looks like now (as of April 1…not an April Fool’s joke):
Oh, and speaking of the Rockin’ Roadway cars, rumors are swirling that they will be removed at some point this year! Now I want to emphasize this part is just a rumor…albeit a good one. You see, the Rockin’ Roadway attraction is constantly having issues and causing delays or closing completely for a day. I was there on April 8, 2015 and was one of the first in line…the very first people that got on didn’t even make it around the track before it broke down. They fixed it about 10 minutes later, loaded riders up and the same thing happened…couldn’t even get one rider all the away around before breaking down!
Yes, children love it and I haven’t seen or heard any concrete evidence of it being completely removed, but it’s just breaking down way too much. With rumors swirling, this is what the line to ride Rockin’ Roadway looks like now…on a Wednesday!
Public Hint #7 (Added April 8)
Also, Dollywood has gone to great lengths to reroute the trolleys slightly. Instead of being a straight shot from the trolley entrance to the pickup/dropoff pavilion like it use to be, they added this funky little curve right behind where they tore down Cas Walker’s building. Now, that’s an awful lot of trouble and an extra hurdle for the trolleys, so this can’t be for nothing. They needed that extra bit of space for something and spent quite a bit of money and time making it happen. Here is what the route looks like.
Public Hint #8 (Added April 8)
At Dollywood on April 8, 2015 the surveyors started planting stakes on the hill! We witnessed them creating 3 separate lines of stakes which, we’ve tried to point out in the pictures below. The first pic shows a closeup shot so you can see the green ribbons on the stakes. The second shot is from Cas Walker’s to show where two rows of stakes are lined up, which are perpendicular to the employee/trolley road. The third pic is of the actual surveyor (in an orange vest) on the hill making a 3rd row shooting up to the left from where Cas Walker’s was…this third row runs more parallel to the employee/trolley road. From the looks of these stakes, it makes sense now why they added the little curve in the employee/trolley road as mentioned in Public Hint #6 above…I believe they needed that extra room for the incline of the new track to get high enough above the access road.
Here is an aerial of what these markers somewhat look like when connected. Revealing, huh?
Public Hint #9
I got a pretty solid tip/confirmation from a Dollywood employee that Jukebox Junction is where the “new addition for 2016” is going and that Dolly will announce it in August. I would predict the announcement will happen on August 7 simply because Dolly is performing at Dollywood on August 8 & 9. Having the announcement on August 7 would give her the opportunity to talk about it and share her excitement for it during her shows. So stay tuned!
Public Hint #10 (Added May 4)
Well looky here! Looks like our predictions from early April are coming true! There has been extensive clearing on the hill we mentioned, as well as some areas that cannot be seen in the photos below. What is interesting is how these clearings have been made into “lanes”, which to us would suggest a terrain-hugging track rather than a tall structure (at least in this section of the coaster). There have been rumors swirling about a launched, terrain-hugging coaster, which we do not have any solid proof of yet…it’s more like wishfully-educated-guesses at this point. Needless to say, anticipation and excitement is building!
The following two photos were posted by ernierocker on the Theme Park Review forum.
Public Hint #11 (Added May 23)
Dollywood held their annual Thrills in the Hills event today for roller coaster enthusiasts. At the conclusion of the event, Dollywood’s PR Manager, Pete Owens, answered various questions from the crowd. He assured everyone that the Rockin’ Roadway would not be removed! This is one rumor that we are ecstatic is not true. Long live Rockin’ Roadway!
Also, he stated that the new coaster will be officially revealed at a media event on August 7, which (just as we predicted) falls right in line with when Dolly Parton will be in town for her concerts on August 8 & 9! Until then, we’ll keep listing everything we see and hear about this fantastic new coaster coming to Dollywood in 2016, so stay tuned for more!
BIG Hint #12 (added June 4)
So I got word from a very reliable source that the new coaster is going to be wooden! So boy howdy does this change things (well, not really for those that were “hopefully expecting” this. But for those not-in-the-loop of some rumors going around, there is a feeling that this will be a wooden, launched coaster. When we heard the new coaster would be in the price range of Wild Eagle, we had assumed it would be a steel coaster due to steel costing more than wooden coasters…BUT the launch mechanism and some of the rumored features of the new coaster will definitely push that price tag up. Another thing that would push the price tag up is if it’s going to be a dueling, launching coaster (this is just my personal, hopeful consideration…I haven’t heard anything hinting at that…yet). This also leads us to assume that Rocky Mountain Construction is involved since they specialize in extremely awesome wooden coasters (they designed Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City). We have not “confirmed” Rocky Mountain Construction’s involvement yet, but the pieces are lining up now that we’ve heard it will be a wooden coaster.
Public Hint #13 (added June 11)
Dollywood is now teasing the new coaster in the park by painting the fences in the 50’s section where the construction is taking place across from Red’s Diner. The pictures below give hints of “Dollywood 2016 – Lightning Fast”. Pic was taken by instagram user rcp305intheparks.
So let’s have some fun and speculate for a moment. Dollywood started with a promo teaser showing a hot rod and a license plate that said “Knox”…we weren’t sure why it said Knox. Now they are using the phrase “Lightning Fast”. Well, it just so happens that the old “White Lightnin’ Trail” that moonshine bootleggers used years ago ended in Knox county. So could the hints of “Knox”, hot rods, and “Lighnting Fast” be leading up to a moonshine/bootlegger themed ride? It would be pretty neat to see a dueling coaster where one side is the bootleggers and the other is the revenuers…but with Dollywood being an “alcohol-free park” bite on the moonshine trend that has exploded in the Smokies lately? This part is just pure speculation as we don’t know for sure what the “theme” will be, but Dollywood loves to have a “story” to go along with a ride such as Blazing Fury, Tennessee Tornado, Firechaser Express, etc. All will be unveiled August 7…but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more clues until then! 😉
Public Hint #14 (added June 17)
Rocky Mountain Construction is confirmed! A job posted today directly from Rocky Mountain Construction for an immediate position in Pigeon Forge for “2 Full-Time survey positions”! Now, Rocky Mountain Construction is way too big, too popular, and too expensive for anyone other that Dollywood to be using them in Pigeon Forge, so this absolutely confirms the rumors that the new coaster will be a Rocky Mountain Construction coaster! The job posting was initially posted on http://jobs.landsurveyorsunited.com/ and they paid $109 to also get it posted on SimplyHired.com along with a Premier, Sponsored listing, so this looks like the real deal (screenshot below of the job listing).
Semi-Public Hint #15 (added July 7)
After a couple of weeks of practically nothing happening on the hill and sources going “dark” on us, we swung by Dollywood today and got some new info along with some pics of the action! First off, it looks as if surveyors have been hired because there are new markers lining the middle of the paths going up the hill…PLUS, an excavator was working the top of the hill today (as shown in the pic below)! Yes, work has officially continued on the hill (more info on that below).
Alright, let’s get to the juicy stuff. I spoke with a couple of people today that I’ll keep anonymous, but they are more-in-the-know than most. I am, however, the tiniest bit reserved on the accuracy of the info only because they aren’t directly “working” on the coaster itself. With that said, here’s the new info I received.
- Let’s get this out of the way first off…work has continued on the hill! The pic to the right shows an excavator at the very top of the hill and it was busy moving dirt all day today. As mentioned before, new survey markers are lined up the middle of the cleared paths, which leads us to assume RMC has their surveyors and work has been able to move forward, which means we’ll see MAJOR changes within the next month on the hill!
- I saw some blueprints…and good GRIEF is it a set of blueprints. Let’s just say that when they were rolled up, it looked like a roll of carpet that the foreman had to throw on his shoulder to carry. My grandfather owned a construction company that built many of the buildings in Pigeon Forge and I have never seen a set of blueprints like this. Soooooo many details…this new attraction is going to be incredible.
- The new coaster will be a HYBRID…a mix of steel and wood. I’m told there is a bunch of wood (and other materials) already on-site with RMC info on it. I couldn’t get more details about the construction other than “hybrid” and a smile…so I’m holding off “confirming” the track type and such, but if there is a “bunch of wood” onsite, my assumption is a wood construction with a steel track such as RMC’s IBox track…but we’ll find out for sure on August 7…if not sooner. When I asked if it was indeed RMC, the reply was “Well, that’s who is back there right now!” 😉
- It was mentioned that the employee building you see to the right of the hill will be removed and the track will use more of that hill than what is currently cleared. Personally, I’m skeptical on this simply because I can’t see Dollywood putting riders so close to employee roads, parking, etc. They like to keep everything within a theme and it’s just hard to see them putting people “behind the scenes” so to speak. BUT, I’m adding this simply because of the confidence of the person that told me.
- I can confirm that there is a lot more clearing and work done that what you can see from most pictures posted of the “front” of the hill. I’m not posting pics simply because it’s not something that can be seen by the general public and pics such as that have historically gotten people into hot water for sharing, which is not something I care to deal with over this…so you’re just going to have to trust me as I can 100% confirm that what you see from the 50’s section is just a fraction of the work that has been done so far on “the hill”. Let’s just say it will be a fun layout!
- Finally, here’s a pano of the construction today on July 7. There were a lot of workers incredibly busy on numerous aspects of the project. Needless to say, we’re going to see a LOT of changes between now and the announcement!
Public Hint #16 – LIGHTNING ROD
Whew…so the drama and mystery just got a bit of a jolt! A forum member, Furion, over at themeparkreview.com (excellent thread about all things Dollywood) shared a recent trademark filing directly by The Dollywood Company for the phrase “LIGHTNING ROD”. Could THIS be the name of the new coaster? The difference here is that the trademark for “SHOT ROD” was filed by Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation whereas “LIGHTNING ROD” was filed by The Dollywood Company, which is a division of Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation…so this specifically entitles the trademark to The Dollywood Company which consists of Dollywood, Splash Country, Dixie Stampede, DreamMore Resort, Pirates Voyage, and Lumberjack Feud.
Like “SHOT ROD”, the new “LIGHTNING ROD” trademark has a description of “Entertainment services, namely, providing an amusement park ride in the nature of a roller coaster with a classic car theme”…so this narrows its use down to Dollywood…and most likely in consideration for the name of the new roller coaster.
Now, from a marketing perspective if they go with “LIGHTNING ROD” then it will fit in much better with what we pieced together back on June 11 in hint #13! If they go with “Lightning Rod”, then it could be themed after the infamous White Lightning moonshine trail that ended in Knox county, which just so happened to be the county on the license plate that flew off the hot rod in the original teaser animation video we shared way back in Hint #2 above. This would put Dollywood right in the mix with the moonshine “resurrection” and popularity taking place right now in the Smokies. “Lightning Rod” is arguably more marketable as well for t-shirts, hats, and all the other stuff they like to sell such as at the exit of Wild Eagle.
So…Shot Rod, Lightning Rod, or something else? What do you think? We’re leaning ever-so-slightly more toward “Lightning Rod” simply for the theme that can be built around it. One thing we do know…we’ll find out very soon with their official announcement fast approaching! Exciting times for Dollywood and roller coaster enthusiasts!
Public Hint #17 – ANNOUNCEMENT DATE CONFIRMED
Dollywood’s PR team has sent out invitations for a public announcement on August 7 (just as we predicted back in May) for the new ride…so we’ll have all of the OFFICIAL details very soon!
Here’s what the announcement directly from Dollywood says:
Dollywood announces record-breaking 2016 attraction project
Join Dolly Parton as The Dollywood Company announces exciting details about the newest attraction racing in to Dollywood Theme Park. Set to open in 2016, the innovative project marks the largest attraction investment in the history of the award-winning park. This record-breaking attraction represents the next project in the $300 million expansion plan first announced by Parton in 2013.
Keywords in the announcement:
- largest attraction investment
The anticipation keeps rising now that we have confirmation from the announcement that it will be record-breaking! Everything will be revealed on Friday morning, August 7th!
Let’s Put the Pieces Together
So putting all of these hints together gives us a list that looks like this:
- New coaster for 2016
- Biggest attraction ever in the park’s 30 year history
- Will cost over $20 million
- Will have hot rod/classic car theme
- Most likely to be called “Shot Rod” OR “Lightning Rod”
- Will be located in Jukebox Junction next to Rockin’ Roadway
- Rockin’ Roadway will NOT be removed!
- The hill behind Jukebox Junction will be the location of the coaster.
- Construction Fence is now painted with “Dollywood 2016 Lightning Fast”
- Word has it that this will be a
WOODENHYBRID coaster…so for it to be in the price range of the Wild Eagle, it will most likely have a launching system which makes sense considering the hot rod/drag race theme they seem to be alluding to.
- Will be created by Rocky Mountain Construction!
- Official announcement from Dollywood coming August 7, 2015!
Dollywood will make an official announcement on August 7 to reveal all of the details. They typically have a live video stream for these types of announcements, which we’ll share as well. We have high hopes for this new roller coaster since the Wild Eagle turned out fantastic and set the bar high for the next coaster…and we can’t wait to ride “Shot Rod” or whatever they end up calling it!
Whew. Lots of info huh? Well, this is the “behind the scenes” work that we do to verify all rumors we receive and try be the first to break the news like we did with Hard Rock Cafe, Margaritaville, and more. The best part is…we have numerous other rumors we’re working to verify as well! We break the news in our email newsletters, so make sure you’re signed up for them…they’re free!
Also, shout out to the Coaster Radio crew for featuring us in their podcast in which they said, “I am surprised by their website…I’m impressed”! You can hear the segment on their website between minutes 6:53 and 12:39. UPDATE: We were mentioned once again on their podcast episode 936! If you love roller coasters, definitely check out their podcast…they have excellent info on all sorts of theme parks, coasters, etc…and fun to listen to!
If you have any solid info for Dollywood’s new coaster that we’ve missed, please share it in the comments below!