There’s a possible resurrection underway in the mountains of North Carolina.
After weeks of social media murmurings and gossip on fan-operated Facebook groups, it seems that we finally have an update.
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.
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, stranding passengers for hours.
The park closed and was put up for sale.
There have been several attempts to re-open the park since, but none took hold.
The idea centers on condos and a hotel in Maggie Valley, a beautiful spot in the North Carolina Mountains near the Blue Ridge Parkway. The condos and hotel will not replace the former park, officials say. The plan is to refurbish, rebuild and reopen.
Still, as evidenced by two decades of failed attempts, the job of breathing life back into the ghosts isn’t an easy one. The park’s infrastructure was in shambles – getting people and fresh water to the top of the mountain was a real problem.
Though there has been work done at the park periodically, the investment to get the thing back up and running would be substantial.
Resurrection, you see, is a delicate process.
What will a rehabilitated Ghost Town in The Sky look like?
The good folks over at Smoky Mountain News claim to 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/residential development.
The article claims that old buildings will be rehabbed and will be “almost indistinguishable” from their original facades of the 1960s. The bottom floor of these buildings will become home to shops and boutiques and the second floor will eventually being sold or leased for residential use.
No word yet on what will become of the rides.
The article also talks about the erection of a new hotel at the base of Buck Mountain and the need for an overall better infrastructure that would support and promote Maggie Valley as the tourist destination it was always meant to become.
For instance, it is estimated that over 200 employees would be required to run the resurrected Ghost Town in the Sky. Meaning that 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, that could in-turn support the park.
The North Carolina based Smoky Mountain News promises to offer the exclusive as further details emerge.
When will Ghost Town in the Sky Reopen?
A timeline for reopening the park is unclear and, 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 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, the 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, trapping Ghost Town Village in a vicious cycle in which it had to fight to stay alive.
Now, 20 years after the park closed for the first time, and roughly 30 to 35 years after the park began its decline, 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.
The nostalgia factor alone would be awesome. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people who grew up going to Maggie Valley who 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 and 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!