PIGEON FORGE - Dollywood has some exciting things in store for the 2017 season, and the clock is ticking, with about five weeks until opening day.
Two new attractions are coming to Dollywood this year and one new ride is coming to Dollywood's Splash Country. Those three major builds, however, are among more than 250 $5,000-or-more projects going on during the winter season.
At Dollywood, a junior, kids-friendly coaster called Whistle Punk Chaser is going in right next to the Thunderhead coaster.
"It's going to be great for families that have smaller kids," Dollywood spokesperson Pete Owens said.
Going in right next to that is a new ride called DropLine. A tower will lift guests - and then drop them - about 20 stories!
"230 feet is quite high," Owens said. "It's going to give a great view of the Smokies for about a second, until you drop."
DropLine is going in where a ride called Timber Tower used to be located. That closed around 2010, and since then the space has acted as a picnic area, stage and Christmas tree platform.
Also new for 2017, the movie-themed eatery Backstage Restaurant will be reopening as an establishment called Front Porch Cafe, described as "very fresh," with "a lot of good hometown ingredients from Tennessee products."
The restaurant makeover is a $150,000 project.
In addition, what used to be called the Rainbow Glass Factory, originally built in the late 80s, will now be known as Mountain Blown Glass.
"We're reconfiguring the glass-blowing equipment, where we can have two craftsmen work here at the same time," Dollywod's VP of Construction & Development Brian Dudash said.
The glass-blowing area's makeover will include a renovated gift shop and area for make-your-own glass ornaments, which - thanks to new equipment - people will now be able to take home that same day. Previously, people either had to come pick up their ornament the next day or Dollywood mailed it to them.
The Mountain Blown Glass renovation is a $300,000 project.
"This is one of those 225 or 250 projects that all need to be completed in the next 37 days," Owens said.
"Most of these are behind-the-scene projects," Dudash explained. "It's everything from replacing large air conditioning units in our theaters, replacing roofs that have just aged out, painting a number of facilities."
Other projects include replacing storm drains through Craftsman's Valley & Rivertown, renovating the front entrance bathrooms and updating the park's human resources building.
Keeping up appearances at Dollywood is a lot of work and constant process, with much of the work done during the winter closure. The park goes through some 20,000 gallons of paint a year!
Dollywood's Splash Country is adding its first new attraction since 2013.
TailSpin Racer will be a six-story, six-lane racing slide.
"They're enclosed tubes that are at the top of the ride," Owens explained, "and then it's going to open up into an open racing slide."
Altogether, between the two parks, the more than 250 projects represent between $11 million and $11.5 million in capital investment.
That's a boost for the local economy, which is still suffering following November's tragic wildfires.
Dollywood officials said the wildfires didn't damage any of the parks' buildings, but stuffed animal prizes in the games area had to be thrown away because of smoke damage.
Dollywood reopens to season passholders on March 17 and the general public on March 18. Splash Country reopens about two months later, on Sat., May 13.
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