PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) – Dolly Parton and Dollywood theme park leadership on Friday announced the single largest attraction investment in the history of the park, a brand-new roller coaster that will be the largest in the park when it opens in the spring.
The $25 million “Big Bear Mountain” roller coaster will open in Spring 2023 and marks the latest step in the half-billion-dollar park expansion announced in 2021. The ride boasts three different launches, 3,990 feet of track and expands the Wildwood Grove section of the park with a six-acre attraction.
The coaster will reach speeds up to 48 mph and a peak elevation of 66 feet as it winds through Wildwood Grove around waterfalls and briefly underground. It’s the first Dollywood ride to feature on-board audio with music and narration from Wildwood Grove’s fictional caretaker Ned Oakley.
Families will embark on a journey to find Big Bear by riding the almost 4,000-foot-long coaster. “As the story goes, this huge bear that’s been roaming these hills for years,” Parton said while clad in a rhinestone park ranger outfit. “The folks around Wildwood Grove said they’ve seen him.”
The rollercoaster will last nearly two minutes and seat 20 passengers per train. The minimum height requirement for a passenger is 39 inches.
“Last year we said we were going to be investing half a million dollars in the next ten years. This is obviously part of that investment strategy and we’re investing all over the park, not just in Wildwood Grove,” said Dollywood VP of Marketing Pete Owens. “But this is phase two. So you’ll see another opportunity to expand in that area sometime during that timeline.”
Dolly said she’s excited about the new experiences families will be able to have at the park but she probably won’t be riding the coaster herself,
“Doesn’t that look like fun?” said Parton. “You know I’m not going to get on that.”
“I’m sure families will really enjoy it. If I get on that thing you’d find my wigs on one of those trees” The ride will also help with the flow of traffic giving people more attractions to enjoy in the park.”
The Spring 2023 launch of the new ride coincides with the grand 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.
“We need to put something fantastic there in order to make it great for families so they can have indoor and outdoor activities,” Parton said. “It started out as a necessity like more things do, but then it just took on a life of its own and it is one of these best parts of this whole park.”