GHOST TOWN IN THE SKY
Maggie Valley, NC
aka: Ghost Town Village &
Ghost Town Adventure Park
Park News - (4/9/22) The future of Ghost Town in the Sky just got a little more complicated. It has just been reported that Alaska Presley, the owner of the property for much of the last decade or so, passed away at the age of 98 on April 7th.
While a new developer was involved with trying to revive Ghost Town as well as an assortment of other projects in the Maggie Valley area, it was believed that Presley likely still held some control and ownership of the property, as she had continues to express a desire to erect a giant cross shaped monument near the top of the mountain.
So who eventually is named as the owner or controller of the property following her passing remains to be seen and could affect how future development of the property takes place, depending on who inherited it.
(2/19/22) A great collection of pictures showing the state of Ghost Town in the Sky from a couple of years ago can be found by following this link.
(2/16/22) The last twenty years have not been kind to Ghost Town in the Sky, but a local news article has posted a great recap of the history of the park from when it opened in 1961, closed in 2002 and then all the struggles to reopen it over the past 20 years.
(1/16/22) In an interesting move the town of Maggie Valley has put a six-month moratorium on allowing new campgrounds and RV parks within town limits. They say this is to review how other towns are handling the issues, but this also comes at a time when the new owner of Ghost Town in the Sky was planning to add RV parks to the area in connection to plans to restore and reopen the long closed theme park. Without a way to move forward on the RV parks, they may opt to not move ahead with the plans to reopen Ghost Town either.
(12/19/21) There is a bit of chaos now erupting around town that could jeopardize any plans to reopen the long-closed Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park. While most want to see Ghost Town return, there are a number of development issues others in town have with the other associated business projects from the same developer.
With the election to assign new board members now over, the developer claims some of the newly elected board members were seeking to possibly reverse previous re-zoning rulings that were put in place, though a member of the planning board claimed that not only would that not be possible, but also illegal.
Some new details were released about the plans for Ghost Town in a recent local meeting.
What we do know so far is that the redevelopment plans in the works with Storyland Studios would see a new lodge style hotel placed at the bottom of the mountain, surrounded by a themed retail and dining development property called Latitude Landing. The plans also call for adding enclosed gondola cars to the aerial lift and bringing back the funicular train system to provide access to the top of the mountain once again, with the goal of making it a year-round attraction destination.
Up on the mountain levels, one area was described as the Boojum Territory which would be built up on the legend of the Sasquatch, with an focus on outdoor and nature themed activities. Up further would be a tributes to Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone and possibly even some areas themed to the old moonshiners before guests would reach the former wild-west themed Ghost Town level on the mountain. Beyond that would be the Cloud Camp level that would pay tribute to native American cultures from the area and include a mountain-top inn.
Elsewhere the idea of building some kind of roller coaster that would bring guests down the mountain to the lower level has also been looked at, which actually sounds more like an Alpine Coaster style experience.
(10/27/21) According to a local news article, Storyland Studios has been selected to redesign the closed Ghost Town in the Sky theme park. Storyland was selected to help them get their “brand story right, redesign the park and help us bring it to life and make is successful” according to Frankie Wood. They claim Wood has been meeting with Storyland’s Matt Ferguson for almost a year now to discuss the project.
According to Ferguson the goal is to bring back everything people loved about the original version of Ghost Town in the Sky, like the Old West town with stunt showdowns in the streets, can-can shows and more. But they also know that alone isn’t enough and that to survive a revived Ghost Town must be able to have updated attractions to compete with other theme parks and attractions, as well as make a stronger connection to the location of the park in the Great Smoky Mountains.
They say all the groundwork to get this project off the ground has been done to allow it to come to life on-time and on-budget, and while the exact timeline has not been set, they say the project is very close to being able to move forward at last.
I have to admit it is good to FINALLY hear some talk about the plans for the theme park after all this time. Let's hope all the time spent in silence making preparations will be worth it.
(10/24/21) Local politics and views about the future of Maggie Valley are causing some conflicts and emotions are said to be running high. A meeting held last week included a presentation by a developer for Ghost Town LLC who has requested new high-density zoning for three parcels of land, which included the Ghost Town parking lot, a parcel accessed by Rocky Top Road and a third parcel that is currently zones for low-density that currently holds 12 cabins in Pioneer Village.
Unfortunately the issues here are all about potential development of other sections of land for things like cabins and a possible RV park, and we still have no real clue about what is planned for the future of the former Ghost Town park property. The section of the parking lot they want to develop is said to be only about a third of the overall parking lot left over from the park’s heyday, which would still leave ample parking for the attraction if it ever reopens.
(10/9/21) While we await to learn more about the plans to revive the former Ghost Town in the Sky theme park, it seems the issue itself has turned into something of a political lightning rod issue dividing the candidates for this year’s local election. According to the newcomers seeking office at this year’s election, they say that all developer Frankie Wood has done is talk about bringing back Ghost Town, but in the meantime he is more focused on getting properties in the area rezoned to build RV Parks and has submitted zero plans for performing any work to revive Ghost Town.
Of course, this could be a “Chicken or Egg” issue, as one might suggest that new RV Parks might not get the business they need to survive without the revival of a major attraction to the area like Ghost Town. Yet the success of any revival of Ghost Town could only be helped by having more tourists staying in town, either at existing hotels or at new RV resorts, which can also benefit other local businesses.
Either way, the success of Maggie Valley seems to be deeply interwoven with the Ghost Town in the Sky property. When the park was open, the area thrived, and over the past couple decades as Ghost Town slept business in Maggie Valley has also fell into a slump.
(10/3/21) The local news has posted a new update about the future of Ghost Town in the Sky. According to a spokesperson for the property, “There are plans in the midst of development right now in terms of what’s going to be coming and how that’s going to look.“ They aren’t ready to discuss exactly what is in store, or a timeline, but it was hinted that their plans for Ghost Town may just be the tip of the iceberg for what they have planned for the Maggie Valley area.
This seems to sync up with other previous comments about their plans for the area that could also involve other business opportunities like restaurants, a music venue, an RV Resort, a Grocery store and even more affordable housing and healthcare solutions for the local workforce.
(8/6/21) After a long silence the developer who hopes to transform the Ghost Town in the Sky site into a new attraction spoke to the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce about his plans not only for the former theme park site, but also other projects he has been planning for the region. His focus is not just on Ghost Town, but on finding ways to revive and help the whole Maggie Valley area and create an impact that will benefit other local businesses in a good way.
The plans include RV Resorts, Restaurants Music Venues, a Grocery Store, health care and even affordable housing solutions for the area. Currently they say they are in the middle of ‘gutting the A-frame” building at the base of Ghost Town and hope to have “something going this year, if we can, on the lower level”. They have also secured several demolition permits for the upper part of the property, where older buildings have reached a point that they have to go. He says they will try to save a few where they can, but the number will be very few because “Ghost Town has totally been through hell.”
They hope to make their overall redevelopment plans for the site public within six months or so. For now he only described transforming the lower aspects of Ghost Town into something more akin to Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, a mix of shopping, dining and entertainment options, plus he would like to see a few rides added to the parking lot area as well in the future.
(5/29/21) While little has been announced, the local news continue to share the news that new developers have taken ownership of the former Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park and are making plans to revive the property. Details are slim, but they do say the goal is to “add modern rides and attractions, lodge-type hotels at the base and top of the mountain, cottages and retail stores.”
(4/9/21) It looks like there has finally been a little action taking place with the former Ghost Town in the Sky theme park property. According to this news article the property has now officially changes hands. Over the past few years five parcels of property have been gathered together, for a total of nearly 250 acres in total, all of which is now officially registered to, “Ghost Town in the Sky LLC”.
As mentioned before, the plan, which could be drawn out over the next decade, hopes to see Ghost Town’s western Main Street area rehabbed and upgraded to include some residential units, and plans in motion to build a new hotel on the west side of Ghost Town’s parking lot at the base of the mountain. Other developments planned for the mountain include the addition of a large “Cross” near the top of the mountain, as well as a concept of building separate but related “worlds” for guests to explore on the property. They’ve also hired Storyland Studios to help them develop the property, a group formed by some former Disney Imagineers.
The good news is that the overall plan is to return Ghost Town in the Sky to life as an amusement park eventually, “with better attractions and entertainment than ever”.
(3/3/21) According to a news story there are now some development said to be in progress with the long closed Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park site. The author says they have spoken with an anonymous developer involved with the property, who confirms that COVID-19 did delay the plans they have for the property. They also report that a number of needed infrastructure improvements and repairs have been completed, with the next step being planned work to gut and completely refurbish the main street buildings in Ghost Town.
The goal is that the refurbished and rebuilt Ghost Town buildings should end up being “indistinguishable” from the facades guests enjoyed over years past. For some structures, they will be demolished and rebuilt from scratch, as it is easier to rebuild from the ground up and build in the ADA requirements from the start.
They compare the plan for the site as being similar to the Biltmore Village with shops taking over the lower floor, while the upper floors could possibly be converted for some unique residential sale or rental use. There are also plans to add an official hotel on the ground level, in the corner of the current parking lot of the old theme park. More on this project as it gets leaked or announced.
(2/28/21) Is something going on with the former Ghost Town in the Sky park? There has been a lot of buzz and name dropping of the park on social media in the last few days, yet nothing has surfaced yet. There have been so many “Attempts” and hopeful plans to revive the park, plus all the crazy alternate names (Ghost Town Village, Ghost Town Adventure Park) but after sitting completely closed since 2015 (in addition to additional closures late 2009 to early 2012, and the original closure that saw it shut down from mid 2002 to mid 2007. So over the past two decades, the park has simply just sat around, wasting away for the most part, and obviously a lot of the infrastructure has suffered for this as well, despite the best attempts by the various owners to maintain and upkeep the property as best they could, open or not.
So what does the future hold for Ghost Town? After all this time, I’m a bit skeptical it will ever reopen as a traditional theme park ever again. This doesn’t mean that it wont reopen… I just think that perhaps under the right creative vision, and with proper funding, the property could reopen as something new. The unique location is certainly a winner along with the themed western ghost town already in place at the top, it could be used for a number of possible ideas. More than once I’ve heard it suggested that it could try to become an attraction similar in concept to the Anakeesa attraction in Gatlinburg, shuttling riders to the top of the mountain where the town could be remodeled into a series of shops, restaurants and western and nature based attractions, zip lines, mountain coasters and tree-top bridge walks. The main problem with this however is that Anakeesa has a ton of on-site visitor traffic to lure in guests from as they visit Gatlinburg. Ghost Town in Maggie Valley currently only has only a fraction of the tourism that Gatlinburg has, with a more remote location that wouldn’t benefit from strolling tourists passing by. Currently I’d bet that the majority of people who pass by Ghost Town are more than likely on their way to the casino in nearby Cherokee, or taking the scenic route through there to get to Gatlinburg itself.
There are lots of small hotels scattered throughout Maggie Valley however, so the area can definitely bring in a good number of visitors if they had a reason to stay there. This brings me to another crazy idea… what if Ghost Town could be transformed into an exclusive western themed resort experience? This would require a good bit of investment, but could see the property able to benefit from visitors year round willing to stay in themed cabins and various other accommodation structures built up there, and enjoy the Ghost Town itself as a themed central shared common area for entertainment, dining, or shopping. Add in themed staff members to work the area, create evolving and changing storylines, and essentially bring Ghost Town “alive”. The goal of this concept would be to create something more akin to WestWorld… on a smaller scale and minus the killer android “hosts”. Sort of a combo of what is being done at Evermore Park in Utah, mixed with the themed adventure resort concept Disney is building in Florida as Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser resort.
If someone was willing to fund such a venture in Maggie Valley, the real question is, would you be willing to visit?
(9/23/20) While there hasn’t been any news about what’s going on a the closed Ghost Town in the Sky theme park, a new YouTube video from “Dude Perfect” takes the group to play an Airsoft Battle game within the theme park’s Ghost Town streets atop the mountain. The player roam throughout the western themed streets and buildings, offering perhaps some of the best and most current footage of how things look up there right now.
(5/7/20) A brief look at what’s going on at Ghost Town in the Sky has been posted in the latest video from the Carpetbagger. They poke around a bit at the old ground level park entrance plaza and saw a little activity going on as well before speaking with someone there off-camera. In short, they are working to clean up the property after it has sat closed for so long, but no clear message was given about what the exact future of the park will be.
(12/23/19) If you are curious about just what things look like atop the Ghost Town in the Sky theme park, a fantastic bit of footage shot at the park by a drone (with permission by the owner) was just posted to YouTube less than two weeks ago, so check that out below.
Also I’ve got one more possibly more related item… a small batch of pictures taken at Ghost Town in the Sky just posted to Facebook just two days ago that are said to be recent. So add these into the rumors of yet another plan pushing ahead to try to reopen the park.
(10/3/19) You are not going to believe it… because I don’t even believe it myself yet, but according to the local news the former Ghost Town in the Sky theme park property is once again under contract to be sold to a new owner. Currently the identify of the new developer has not been released, nor their final intentions, as they are currently performing their due diligence to go over all the park materials and records to make sure they want to go through with the purchase.
According to the report they entered into this period of the contract backin mid-August and they have 120 days to do their research before making up their mind, so we should know more by the end of December.