Editor’s note: This article is being updated as more information is available.
There’s a possible resurrection underway in the mountains of North Carolina.
After weeks of social media murmurings and gossip, more information about Ghost Town in the Sky’s reopening is available.
According to the Smoky Mountain News, developers are trying to bring the Maggie Valley landmark tourist attraction, Ghost Town in the Sky, back from the dead.
Ghost Town in the Sky, aka Ghost Town Village, is a long-shuttered Wild West-themed amusement park that sits atop a mountain in Maggie Valley.
Maggie Valley is a beautiful spot in the North Carolina mountains near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The popular tourist attraction began stumbling in the 1990s as revenue couldn’t support maintenance needs for rides, such as the famous Red Devil Roller Coaster.
In July 2002, the chairlift ride from the parking lot to the park died in the summer heat. This resulted in passengers being stranded for hours.
The park ultimately closed and was put up for sale. In short, Ghost Town lived up to its name and because a real ghost town.
Why previous attempts of reopening have failed
There have been several attempts to re-open the park, but none took hold.
As evidenced by two decades of failed attempts, the job of breathing life back into ghosts isn’t an easy one.
The park’s infrastructure is in shambles. Getting people and fresh water to the top of the mountain has been a real problem.
There has been work done at the park periodically. Still, the investment to get the thing back up and running would be substantial.
Resurrection, you see, is a delicate process with many challenges, including housing and infrastructure problems.
In August of 2021, a key person working on the development for Ghost Town made a rare public speaking appearance.
The Mountaineer reports that Frankie Wood explained basic plans in front of the local Chamber of Commerce. The plans involve an investment of up to $200 million.
During the meeting, he noted that Ghost Town has “totally been through hell”. Some buildings will be saved and resurrected, but “not more than a few”.
Wood says he expects more information, including a specific timeline, to be available in about six months, or in early 2022. Read the full story here.
What will a rehabilitated Ghost Town in The Sky look like?
The folks at Smoky Mountain News say they have been speaking to one of the developers on the condition of anonymity for the past couple of years.
The full article, which can be read here, details a mixed-use retail and residential development.
In August, Wood noted that the lower level of Ghost Town might look something like “Broadway on the Beach” in Myrtle Beach, which offers shopping, dining and entertainment.
The second floor will eventually be sold or leased for residential use, according to Smoky Mountain News.
There is no word yet on what will become of the original rides.
However, Wood mentioned there may be some theme-park style rides, including a ferris wheel.
What about housing and infrastructure?
Better infrastructure and housing is a big part of the resurrection plans to help Maggie Valley become the tourist destination it was always meant to be.
For instance, it is estimated that over 200 employees would be required to run the resurrected Ghost Town in the Sky. This means 200 families would require affordable housing in the area.
The area is also in need of restaurants, a grocery store and an urgent care facility to support a local economy. This could, in turn, support the park.
During the meeting, Wood noted that they are working on a number of affordable housing programs. For example, this may include cottages, town houses and RV resorts.
When will Ghost Town reopen?
Ghost Town will reopen sometime after 2022. However, a timeline for the reopening has not yet been formally announced.
In fairness, there will remain a heavy level of skepticism as previous attempts have looked promising only to fail.
The process will be fascinating, even if they only get the doors open.
Why did Ghost Town close in the first place?
At one time, Ghost Town served as a worthy rival to the pre-Dollywood Silver Dollar City/Goldrush Junction theme parks. But as Dollywood and Pigeon Forge soared, Ghost Town began fading.
As beautiful as Maggie Valley is, it couldn’t attract the number of tourists needed to support the park. And as the park cut corners to keep things open, rides and services began to fail. This trapped Ghost Town Village in a vicious cycle in which it had to fight to stay alive.
Now, there’s an effort to bring it back.
It would be wonderful for Maggie Valley to have the park back. It would be wonderful for Western North Carolina and the region in general.
If you build it, will they come?
The nostalgia factor alone would be awesome. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people who grew up going to Maggie Valley. These folks would love to share that experience with their kids or, more likely, their grandkids.
Ultimately, the effort will be a fascinating test case in the power of nostalgia.
In theory, if this plan works it could mean new life for legacy entertainment options throughout the region. Places with strong history that through bad breaks or a bad management decision got caught in a downward spiral in a competitive business. They couldn’t bounce back.
But until the doors open and we see how things go, we’re left to speculate.
You can build it, but will they come? Let us know what you think in the comments!
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