SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — An international theme park group has plans to open its first U.S. attraction in Sevier County. Puy Du Fou is known for its immersive experiences around the world.
They just signed a formal letter of intent with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to bring their brand of historical-based, immersive experiences to the Sevier County commercial development site known as “The 407: Gateway To Adventure.”
The theme park announcement follows news last year that Buc-ee’s will build a flagship travel center at the 407 site. At 74,000-square feet, it is expected to be the largest convenience store in the world. Additional businesses coming to the 200-acre development are expected to be announced later this year.
Puy Du Fou’s flagship park theme park in France attracted more than 2.3 million visitors in 2019, trailing only Disneyland Paris as France’s most visited theme park. Developers are hoping those numbers translate here in Sevier County.
“We’ll only be using about 80 of the 200 acres available to us for the 407,” Matthew Cross, the CEO of OE Experience said.
Cross explained, “we’ll have about a year between Buc-ee’s being operational in 2023 and Phase I, which we just recently announced, being open in 2024. Our goal is to start educating everyone coming to Sevier County about the extra time they need to allocate the next time they’re in town.”
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians Tribal Council approved $75 million in funding for Phase I of the 407 after a French theme park company agreed to put their first American attraction in Sevier County.
“Puy De Fu doesn’t have any rides in their parks. It’s all about shows and storytelling and a high level of immersion,” said Cross.
The company plans to tell the story of the Cherokee’s influence in World War 1.
“Our development isn’t positioned so much to take away from the other operators that are there but to bring in something new,” Cross stated.
The new development is located right off Interstate 40 with hopes that they will profit from the tourism coming in and out of the Great Smoky Mountains which has nearly 12 million visitors a year.
“We brought together a team including theme park designers, local engineers, master planners and conceived The 407 Gateway to Adventure and the premise of this development is that we’re going to get everyone to stop at the beginning and at the end of the Sevier County vacation,” said Cross.
Along with Buc-ee’s and this new theme park, The 407: Gateway To Adventure project aims to offer entertainment, retail, and hotel amenities. Site leaders have said they are exploring additional development possibilities such as a world-class golf attraction, go-cart facility and distillery experience.