Construction is progressing on schedule for the spring opening of Dollywood’s Lightning Rod, the fastest wooden roller coaster in the world.
Spanning the hills and valleys surrounding Dollywood, mostly hidden from view inside the park, a very unique and exciting roller coaster is being built. Lightning Rod is the park’s new record-breaking coaster.
“It is the first launched wooden coaster imagined or built anywhere,” said Dollywood Spokesperson Pete Owens during a construction tour for media this morning. “It is also going to be the fastest wooden coaster in the world when it opens later this spring.”
Lightning Rod is a 1950s hot rod-themed coaster. Each train is comprised of 12 cars, carrying two passengers each, for a total of 24 people per train. Reaching a speed of 73 mph, the 3,800-ft. journey on the coaster will last about 1.5 minutes.
Dollywood broke ground on the coaster in June 2015 and says it will be ready to roll when the park opens March 19, 2016. Rocky Mountain Construction, of Hayden, Idaho, is the ride manufacturer.
USA Today named Lightning Rod the most anticipated coaster of 2016.
The Lightning Rod ride entrance is located in Jukebox Junction where Cas Walker’s once stood. The new building is designed to look like an auto garage with bays in the front and a brick factory in the rear. While still under construction and empty, Dollywood Creative Director Ralph Nielsen described the story theme in detail. A hot rod building mechanic named Johnny Rev is the main character. Entering the Lightning Rod is visiting his garage, with a classic hot rod sitting on a lift and gas and oil signs lining the walls. Guests are invited to test drive his latest hot rod, the Lightning Rod.
Unlike other wooden coasters that use a chain lift, Lightning Rod uses new super capacitor technology to propel its trains up the massive 200-ft. lift hill at 45 mph before gravity takes over and riders experience the 165-ft. first drop and excel to 73 mph.
From the station, the wooden bones and steel rail seem to disappear into the sky as the track of the lift hill crests the ridge. When completed, nearly half a million board feet of Southern Yellow Pine lumber will have been used to build the wooden coaster.
In addition to the lift hill launch, riders will experience other unique features, including twin summit airtime hills, a 90+ degree banked breaking wave turn, a 90+ degree outside banked turn, and a non-inverting half loop. Urethane wheels and a continuously welded track will make Lightning Rod a smoother ride than wooden coasters with steel wheels.
“There are so many unique features to this ride and to the trains themselves that it’s something we are excited about, the industry is excited about, but most importantly, our guests are really excited about,” said Owens.
At $22 million, Lightning Rod is the star of a project to revitalize the entire Jukebox Junction area of the theme park, which was originally built in 1995. The renovation will maintain the 1950s-1960s theme and have design elements that locals will recognize as a nod to Sevierville and East Tennessee during that era.
A major expansion is underway for Red’s Diner, one of the most popular restaurants in the park, and includes a new outdoor seating area. The park is embracing technology by partnering with Coca-Cola to provide charging stations for guests’ phones and electronic devices while they grab a burger or sip a milkshake.
Guests will have more dining options in Jukebox Junction. A food truck that specializes in chicken sandwiches and a vintage Airstream trailer serving Dippin’ Dots will both sit near the Pines Theater and convenient to the Lightning Rod coaster.
Lightning Rod is Dollywood’s eighth roller coaster, joining Blazing Fury, Tennessee Tornado, Thunderhead, Mystery Mine, Sideshow Spin, Wild Eagle and Firechaser Express. Blazing Fury is its oldest coaster and was built in 1978.
Ride Lightning Rod with this animation!