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Dollywood is moving a mountain this year to ensure its visitors have what park officials call “an experience you can only get at Dollywood.”
After being put off for a year thanks to the sagging economy and rising steel prices, work on the new Adventure Mountain attraction is progressing quickly. Media representatives were given a sneak peek at the construction effort, which is set to be completed in time for the area to be open when the park opens for its 25th season on March 27, on Wednesday.
Park spokesman Pete Owens and Attractions Manager Jeff Manning led the tour of what will be the largest challenge course in America, with 46 different elements, four separate courses, a children’s area, and more than two miles of ropes and cables. “It’s a staggering amount of equipment that has been brought in and work that has been done here,” Owens said. “It is unique and it is the biggest of its kind in the country. There are only a few other theme parks that have this kind of thing, and they aren’t close to the size and scope of this one.”
The highly themed attraction is being constructed in the style of the buildings government workers built in the national park seven decades ago. Rock facades will cover much of the steel skeleton, while support structures will resemble something akin to an old fire tower. “It’s going to be themed after Civilian Conservation Corps-era architecture in the park,” Owens explained. “Each of the elements will also have its own unique features, so the Geyser Gulch area will have several water features and other areas will have rock ledges our guests will actually climb on.”
Underneath and between all that thematic construction is what amounts to a safe version of some of the activities visitors to the national park enjoy. For instance, visitors may find themselves inching across logs, making their way over rope bridges or braving a rocky ledge while hanging over a portion of the park’s Wilderness Pass. All that will be done at as much as 35 feet off the ground, Manning said.
Of course, every precaution will be taken to ensure those who take part in Adventure Mountain, which comes with the price of admission to the park, do so at their own comfort level and in complete safety. “This is going to look and feel like it is part of the Smokies,” Owens said. “It will give people the opportunity to experience some of the things they might want to do if they were in the park, like rock climbing, but with the advantage that you know you’re completely safe. Even if you make a misstep, you’re not going anywhere.” Participants will be strapped into safety harnesses that will be hooked into a system of overhead security rails through what park officials have taken to calling a puck. That small piece of plastic and metal will ensure that even a fall won’t become serious, while park staffers will be stationed throughout the attraction to offer assistance and further safety. “If you should lose your footing on the attraction, the most you’re going to drop is 6 to 8 inches,” Manning assured. “We’ll have hosts at each level to help people if they should fall or have trouble making it across an element.”
As they wait in line, participants will see a video outlining each of the four courses of varying difficulty, giving them a chance to pick their route. The tracks range from an easy one that includes steps and lightly-pitched ramps, to the hardest which includes those log and rope bridges, among other things. “This will include every element the manufacturer currently makes,” Owens said. “It can be a different adventure each time because you can choose different elements from each course. This is going to be a great attraction for families with children because they can all go together, with the littlest kids on the easier course and the older ones on the hard course.”
Park officials are excited to unveil the attraction as Dollywood’s 25th anniversary season kicks off, Owens said. “I think this is going to be a jewel in that 25th anniversary crown,” he said. “We’re always on the lookout for those unique attractions and we think we’ve been successful at finding that here. We’re creating attractions and experiences that you’ve got to come to Dollywood to do and have.” That’s because, Owens explained, Adventure Mountain will be unlike almost any other theme park attraction in the country.
“Most theme park attractions are pretty sedentary. More or less you’re just cargo on a ride,” he said. “This is all you moving yourself through the attraction. This will be a totally interactive experience.”