Almost six months after it was damaged by fire, the rebuilt Gatlinburg Sky Lift will reopen at 9 a.m. Friday, just before the Memorial Day weekend.
Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner and Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters will ride the celebratory "first chair" up the sky lift, operators said.
The sky lift now has 92 chairs that seat up to three people each. The sky lift's orange towers and cross arms are taller than they were before, meaning riders will be 8 to 10 feet higher when in motion.
The Gatlinburg Sky Deck at the top of the sky lift is still under construction, so riders aren't able to get off the lift at the top. The sky deck is expected to be complete in early fall.
The entire round-trip ride lasts approximately 18 minutes.
Take a ride on the newly reopened Gatlinburg Sky Lift in video below.
“We are both excited and proud that we’re able to invite riders back to the Sky Lift,” General Manager of the Gatlinburg Sky Lift Randy Watson said in a statement. “It was never a question of whether we would be back. We’re back stronger than ever, have big expansion plans, and are truly grateful for the encouragement and support we continue to receive from the City of Gatlinburg and fans of the Sky Lift from all over the country.”
The Sky Lift suffered extensive damage in the November 2016 wildfires that swept through parts of Sevier County. The fire destroyed the upper viewing deck and damaged the chair lift's tower support system so much that it had to be replaced.
The rebuilding was a $2.6 million project.
State inspectors conducted weight testing on the rebuilt Sky Lift in late April.
The Sky Lift is operated by Boyne Resorts.
It originally opened in 1954, and in recent years has been visited by more than 450,000 riders annually, according to Boyne Resorts.
Operators said they plan to build a gift shop and restaurant on the Sky Deck. Those are expected to open in early 2018.