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Wednesday, 28 May 2014 13:24

Maggie Valley amusement park shoots for June opening

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fr ghosttownMemorial Day weekend has come and gone, and Ghost Town in the Sky still appears much as the name implies. The closed gift shop and ticket windows sit watch over an empty parking lot. 

But that’s set to change in a few weeks. The Maggie Valley mountain-top Old West-themed amusement park is scheduled to open June 20. 

A project to run new waterlines through the upper level of the park pushed back the opening date, said Chris Chagnon, the park’s new general manager. Once finished, the entire park will be served by the Maggie Valley Sanitary District.

“We’re gonna take it all the way to the top,” Chagnon said. “It’s pretty major.”

Ghost Town was bought out of foreclosure by long-time Maggie Valley businesswoman Alaska Presley two years ago. She has been trying to revive the park, which was in a severe state of disrepair and dysfunction when she got it.

The park has been open the past two years in a limited capacity, with portions of it closed off and many of the rides not working. But progress has been made, not only with massive repairs and infrastructure improvements, but also by adding and upgrading attractions and amenities in the park.

New this year is a paintball course — although “it won’t be ready for opening” — a pizzeria and new walking trails. The zip lines have been repaired and the shooting galleries are ready to go. Country music concerts have been added to the stage Old West gunfights and can-can dancing. 

Ghost Town has also added additional rides for children. Chagnon’s particularly excited about a multi-room bounce house. 

“It’s really cool,” he said. “It came out of a park in Boone, I think it was.”

Chagnon was brought on recently by park owner Alaska Presley. He is the third general manager in as many years. He currently works with the Treasure Broker Trading Post and Action Creek Realty in Maggie Valley.

“Essentially, I got handed this park and I’ve had to clean up a lot of stuff,” said the new general manager.

Chagnon said that the park has required a good bit of work before it is ready for opening. In addition to “getting it organized,” there was maintenance to be done to ensure the park’s rides were in good form.

One ride that has not received attention leading up to this year’s opening is the Cliffhanger — a ride whose ultimate fate remains uncertain. For now, the park is taking a wait-and-see approach in order to better ascertain if generated traffic merits spending money on repairs for the Cliffhanger.

“Everybody wants to know, ‘is the rollercoaster going?’” Chagnon said, explaining that the deferred maintenance on Cliffhanger has compounded the ride’s mechanical issues and made repairs prohibitively expensive for the time being. “The rollercoaster is not working and it’s not going to work.”

 

 

A short history of Ghost’s Town trials and tribulations

Ghost Town in the sky opened in the early 1960s. It was a popular tourist destination for years, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to Western North Carolina’s Maggie Valley. 

By the 1990s, attendance at the park had declined. By the early 2000s, it was closed. Investors tried, without success, to revive Ghost Town but ended up in bankruptcy. 

In 2012, Alaska Presley — a Ghost Town fan with a real estate fortune — rescued it from foreclosure. This will be her third season running the park.

In 2012, Ghost Town was opened with limited offerings. Last year, a Memorial Day opening was announced but delayed due to complications with ride inspections.

This year’s late opening is due to an undertaking to run water lines to the park’s upper levels. The work is expected to be complete by the June 20 opening. 

And though Ghost Town’s recent years have been a struggle, new General Manager Chris Chagnon is optimistic about the park’s future.

“The park, two years from now, probably will turn a profit,” he said.

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