Pigeon Forge, TN, USA (March 27, 2012) /BUSINESS WIRE/ —Dollywood and Dolly Parton made history on Friday, March 23, as the Tennessee-based theme park launched its new $20 million Wild Eagle, the first steel wing coaster in the U.S.
“Wild Eagle was a long time in the makin’ but truly worth every minute as that incredible bird took flight over Dollywood,” Parton said. “From everything folks are telling me, Wild Eagle is somethin’ else, and I hope folks from around the world come to Dollywood to earn their wings. Or as I like to say, be an eagle not a chicken!”
Hosting approximately 1,000 invited guests and dignitaries, Parton presided over Dollywood’s Wild Eagle grand opening festivities, complete with confetti cannons and a special flight by the American Eagle Foundation’s (AEF) specially trained bald eagle Challenger.
The 52 first official rides on Wild Eagle were offered on ebay in March and generated $37,000 for the AEF, which is headquartered at Dollywood. Auction winners were on hand for the inaugural ride. Auction proceeds benefitted the not-for-profit AEF which rehabilitates and breeds birds of prey under permits from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Dollywood is home to Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, a 1.5-million-cubic-foot natural outdoor aviary which is maintained by the AEF and houses the country’s largest presentation of non-releasable bald eagles.
Coaster enthusiasts from around the world, many of whom had tagged Wild Eagle as the year’s most anticipated coaster opening, were in attendance for the event and gave Wild Eagle high marks.
“Wild Eagle is an exhilarating roller coaster that delivers a powerful yet graceful ride experience with breathtaking views. This exceptionally unique coaster is flat-out fun and should be a phenomenal success for Dollywood,” David Lipnicky, American Coaster Enthusiasts, said.
“Wild Eagle was by far my most anticipated coaster of the year,” Coaster Crew’s Clint Novak added. “It gives you a true feeling of what it’s like to glide over the Smoky Mountain tree tops, just like a wild eagle.”
Wild Eagle’s innovative floorless design allows riders to experience the sensation of flight. Riders sit four abreast in a forward-facing position, with two riders seated on the “wings” along either side of the coaster’s track with nothing but air above and below them.
Perched on the park’s highest peak, Wild Eagle rises 21 stories into the sky. Taking off from the Wilderness Pass area, riders travel the coaster’s massive 3,127-foot track as it dives, drops, twists and turns. Traversing the mountainous terrain, Wild Eagle reaches a top speed of 61 miles per hour and maneuvers four inversions including a giant loop, a “zero-G” roll, and a giant flat spin.
Wild Eagle’s nearly two-and-a-half minute journey includes a plummeting 135-foot first drop. Located 210 feet above the coaster’s loading station, the ride provides spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains terrain below. Each coaster train consists of seven cars which carry four passengers for a total of 28 people per train. Each vehicle features an imposing bald eagle with piercing eyes and broad wings outstretched for flight.
Wild Eagle is the largest single capital investment in Dollywood’s 26-year history. The park’s development team collaborated with Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M), the world’s premier coaster manufacturer. Pioneers in ride technology, B&M has built 11 of the 20 highest-ranking steel coasters in the world, according to Amusement Today magazine.
The ride’s name celebrates the bald eagle, a raptor whose population has increased in recent years due largely to the efforts of the AEF.
Wild Eagle joins Dollywood’s award-winning lineup of coasters. Thunderhead, twice named the world’s best wooden coaster, consistently ranks among the world’s top five. It was built in 2004. Mystery Mine, a 1,811-foot-long steel coaster, opened in 2007 and was named Theme Park Insider’s best new theme park attraction the same year. In addition, Dollywood is a two-time Golden Ticket Award winner for Best Shows and three-time winner for Best Christmas Event.
Dollywood was recognized in 2010 with the theme park industry’s most prestigious honor, the Applause Award. The Applause Award honors a park whose management, operations and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with its foresight, originality and sound business development.
Based in the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is a 150-acre family adventure park which operates nine months a year (late March through December) and offers more than 40 rides and attractions; award-winning live entertainment featuring country, bluegrass, gospel and mountain music; and a dozen crafters authentic to the East Tennessee region. A family-friendly vacation destination, Dollywood also includes the 35-acre Dollywood’s Splash Country, voted America’s “Must-See Waterpark.” Dollywood offers all-inclusive vacation planning with a variety of overnight lodging options. For more information, call 1-800-DOLLYWOOD or visit dollywood.com.