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Dollywood Lightning Rod coaster to close in October for maintenance

by: Hope McAlee

Posted: Sep 13, 2023 / 03:28 PM EDT

Updated: Sep 13, 2023 / 03:28 PM EDT

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Dollywood visitors who may have been disappointed to find the Lightning Rod rollercoaster was closed during their visit may look at planning their next visit in the spring, as the ride is scheduled for a change over the winter, according to Dollywood.

At the end of Dollywood’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana on October 30, Lightning Rod will close for the winter as it’s existing launch system is replaced with a high-speed chain lift, park officials said in a video posted to the park’s social media. The ride will reopen Spring 2024.

“I know a lot of you have been frustrated through the years that you haven’t had an opportunity to be able to ride the ride, because of varying reasons. We were very aggressive when we built the ride, putting a launch system on a wood coaster which nobody had ever done before, and I think we kind of found out why, ” said Pete Owens, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Dollywood.

On Dollywood’s website, the park said the new variable frequency chain lift will provide guests with a more consistent and efficient ride experience. Despite the change, the ride experience is expected to remain the same after the coaster trains reach the first drop.

“We’ve been studying these engineering changes for a few years now since my arrival to Dollywood Parks and Resorts and we’re really looking forward to a change this,” said Eugene Naughton, President of The Dollywood Company. “The great part about I think this change over to a lift, one, it will drive up time, but two, when you pop over that hill at 13 miles an hour, it’ll be almost the same speed, chain versus launch, and the ride home is going to be exactly the same. And what’s also going to be significant is we’re getting a new set of trains.”

Owens added that Lightning Rod will still be “out of control and the most wild ride you’ve ever been on at Dollywood.”

Lightning Rod fully opened in September 2016 and takers riders to a top speed of 73 miles per hour. The ride, themed after a “tricked-out 1950s-era hot rod,” is 3,800 feet long and features a 165-foot drop.