Ghost Town in the Sky re-opens in spring

Built in 1960, Ghost Town in the Sky, located on the top of a 4,000 foot-high mountain, was a place of live gun fights, dancing girls and the Red Devil Rollercoaster that hangs off the side of the mountain. However, after generations of visitors, Ghost Town became a real ghost town by closing its doors in 2002. After being on the market for four years, the park now has new owners and will be re-opening its doors in May 2007. The new owners are Allen and Carol Harper who are also the owners of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and the Durango-Silverton. Others include investor Peter Hairston and Hank Woodburn, owner of several other family entertainment centers. With the successful list of other parks, the new owners are expected to turn Ghost Town into the enterprise it was during its golden years.The re-opening will also have a positive effect on the economy of Maggie Valley by creating 285 full and part-time jobs along with those required to construct and refurbish the park. During its best years, Ghost Town brought in approximately 300,000 visitors a year, which helped to fuel the economy of Maggie Valley’s motels, restaurants and zoo. Since its closing in 2002, some of the local businesses have had a cut in profit or were forced to close. Though the park is in need of repair, the owners plan on investing $4 million to supply the park with what it needs to re-open and then another $13 million over time. Some of the rides that need replacing, such as the chairlift and other older rides, will be the first to receive attention. Several new attractions will be added to make the park more family-oriented. A historical and heritage exhibit along with special performances will be some of the attractions while new restaurants and concessions will make the stay more enjoyable. Other attractions that will be featured further down the line will be a water park, retail outlets and housing that will not interfere with the park. However, many of the old rides like the Red Devil Rollercoaster and rare vintage historical children’s rides will remain at the park. The new owners also plan to keep the old Western theme even as new attractions are added. Discussions are being made to incorporate the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Dillsboro and the Cherokee Reservation. Since the announcement of the park’s re-opening, many of the previous workers are ready to come back. During the middle of August, workers like the gunfighters joined the crowd of people who all wanted their old jobs back. The crowd that gathered was so large that many of the workers had to be turned down because there would not be enough positions. With such a large turn out of workers wanting to come back, owners are estimating a huge turnout of visitors the first year of re-opening. The large turn out of workers wanting to come back, the success record of the new owners, and the publicity of the re-opening have experts believing that at least 150,000 people will be flocking to the park within the first year of re-opening. Others believe that the first year could bring even more.