The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Tribal Council has approved $75 million for Phase I of ”The 407: Gateway to Adventure” in Sevierville, Tennessee, including the development of a spectacular immersive show produced by Puy du Fou. Based on a formal Letter of Intent (LOI) signed by Puy du Fou, the ECBI Tribal Council approved the Phase I funding in a session on May 5.
“We are excited to take the first steps towards developing this world-class attraction that will help support our nation economically while creating a new platform to share dimensions of Cherokee history many have never heard,” said Richard French, Chairman of the Tribal Council.
Puy du Fou’s original flagship theme park in France draws more than 2.3 million visitors every year. It is the second most-visited theme park in France (trailing only Disneyland Paris) and offers multiple shows, period villages, and more than half a dozen on-site resorts — all custom-designed and built with authenticity as a focal point. It has developed similar venues in Europe during the past 10 years and is now looking at USA for its next stage of expansion.
OE Experiences, a Knoxville-based experience development company, has represented Kituwah and The 407 globally in search of ideal partners for the entertainment-focused aspects of the development. Last year, Buc-ee’s Family Travel Centers announced it would build the company’s largest Buc-ee’s (74,000 square feet) at The 407 and hotels, restaurants, retail locations and other specialty attractions will be announced later this year.
Matthew Cross, CEO of OE Experiences, said, “With funding for the project secured, we now focus on the agreements with the development’s stakeholders, including local governments, to ensure this project and the area can support this world-class attraction. This represents an amazing opportunity for two communities, locally and within the EBCI, to be proud of a destination on the cutting edge of the experience economy.”
“This project in Tennessee developed together with the EBCI means a lot for us: it will initiate our presence on the American soil where there are so many great stories to tell. As lovers of history and cultural roots, we are proud and honored to partner with the EBCI Tribe to achieve this goal,” said Nicolas de Villiers, Chairman & Artistic Director of Puy du Fou.
Puy du Fou’s plan for the The 407 includes an all-new themed spectacle inspired by an authentic and heartbreaking Cherokee story of their heroism in World War I. This immersive walk-through show will take guests on a patriotic and moving journey for the entire family.
“Puy du Fou is known around the world for transporting guests back in time to feel firsthand the excitement and drama of historical moments. This unique attraction promises to be a one-of-a-kind experience that will make The 407 truly the ‘Gateway to Adventure,’” said Richard Sneed, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Developers intend for Puy du Fou to anchor “The 407: Gateway to Adventure” project, which is owned and operated by Kituwah, LLC, a wholly-owned business subsidiary of the EBCI. The highly anticipated 200-acre development is located at the primary Tennessee entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (with more than 12 million annual visitors).
Mark Hubble, CEO of Kituwah, LLC, the Tribe’s economic entity for non-gaming businesses, stated, “Tribal Council’s vote today affirmed that they wanted this project to be a best-in-class immersive development bringing unique experiences to the 14 million annual visitors to the region. Puy du Fou is a world class partner to continue that journey. They present experiences that are truly unparalleled and will serve as an incredible addition to The 407: Gateway to Adventure.”