SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – An international entertainment company will build their first American theme park near the Tennessee entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park after agreeing to a deal with The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians Tribal Council approved $75 million to develop a ‘spectacular, immersive show’ at the Sevier County commercial development site known as “The 407: Gateway to Adventure,” after signing a formal Letter of Intent with French theme park company Puy Du Fou on May 5.
According to an official press release, the Puy Du Fou plan includes, “an all-new themed spectacle inspired by an authentic and heartbreaking Cherokee story of their heroism in World War 1.”
“Puy du Fou is known around the world for transporting guests back in time to feel firsthand the excitement and drama of historical moments. This unique attraction promises to be a one of a kind experience that will make The 407 truly the ‘Gateway to Adventure’,” said Richard Sneed, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Puy du Fou parks are known for immersing visitors into history-inspired events — such as medieval battles and Viking conquests — at their locations in France and Spain.
“This project in Tennessee developed together with the EBCI means a lot for us: it will initiate our presence on the American soil where there are so many great stories to tell. As lovers of history and cultural roots, we are proud and honored to partner with the EBCI Tribe to achieve this goal” Nicolas de Villiers, Chairman & Artistic Director of Puy du Fou.
“We are excited to take the first steps towards developing this world-class attraction that will help support our nation economically while creating a new platform to share dimensions of Cherokee history many have never heard,” said Richard French, Chairman of the Tribal Council.
The EBCI and Puy Du Fou representatives met in February to discuss the development.
Located at the famous Exit 407 of I-40, the primary entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Tennessee, the 407: Gateway to Adventure project aims to capitalize on the park’s nearly 12 million annual visitors by offering entertainment, retail and hotel amenities on a 200-acre site.
This East Tennessee park marks Puy Du Fou’s first expansion into the North American market. Their 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. Puy du Fou has been twice elected “Best Theme Park in the World” and a new location in Shanghai is expected to open later this year.
The theme park is expected to anchor the 407 project, where developers announced last year they would be constructing the world’s biggest convenience store. Additional attractions, hotels and restaurants coming to the site are expected to be announced later this year.
Site leaders have said they are exploring additional development possibilities such as a world-class golf attraction, go-cart facility and distillery experience.
“With funding for the project secured, we now focus on the agreements with the development’s stakeholders, including local governments, to ensure this project and the area can support this world-class attraction,” said Matthew Cross, CEO of OE Experiences. “This represents an amazing opportunity for two communities, locally and within the EBCI, to be proud of a destination on the cutting edge of the experience economy.”
“The 407: Gateway to Adventure,” is owned and operated by Kituwah, LLC, a business subsidiary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. OE Experiences, a Knoxville-based experience development company, has represented Kituwah and The 407 globally in search of ideal partners for the development.