Rocky Mountain Construction says it's not sure when Dollywood's Lightning Rod will open

Posted Thursday, March 24, 2016 4:35 PM | Contributed by bunky666

From the Rocky Mountain Construction site, captured on March 24, 2016:

HAYDEN, Idaho — Rocky Mountain Construction co-owner Fred Grubb has released the following statement on the recently announced delay to the opening of Lightning Rod at Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, TN:

“We take the highest level of pride in every attraction we create. RMC is equally disappointed that Lightning Rod will not be opening as originally planned. We have been working with the launch system subcontractor on-site to bring it up to speed and working as intended.

As is often the case with prototype attractions and especially with launched coasters, delays are an ever-present possibility. During the course of testing, we determined that the third-party launch system would not be able to perform at the level required for proper operation.

While we strive to meet all of our deadlines, we cannot and will not sacrifice safety or ride quality in the name of saving time. RMC never has nor ever will open any new attraction until it has passed our rigorous standards.

At this time, we cannot speculate as to when the attraction will open to the general public. That date is ultimately decided upon by the customer, therefore all questions regarding an opening should be directed to Dollywood.

On behalf of all the employees at Rocky Mountain Construction, I want to personally thank the management team at Dollywood, the fans of the park as well as our fans for their patience and understanding as we work to bring you Lightning Rod.”

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Friday, March 25, 2016 3:09 PM

But on the other hand, is a launch required to give the trains enough speed to go through the course?

Last edited by super7*, Friday, March 25, 2016 3:09 PM
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Friday, March 25, 2016 4:01 PM

Well, coasters are designed to make it to the end from the top of a lift or even from a dead stop at a mid course brake, if there is one. So while the ride may not be as fast as intended, it should make it after rolling off a chain lift.
Notice too, that the launch mechanism stops before it gets to the top of the hill anyway and in the rendering the train slows down a bit. Then again, it's supposed to feature airtime at the top of the very first hill, so if the launch is a total fail then expectations will have to be adjusted.

But never fear. The ride has tested successfully, so my hope is its just a matter of tweaking something here or there...

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Friday, March 25, 2016 4:25 PM

They removed both trains from the ride so it has to be something serious. My question would be if your building something with a time frame why would you even consider using a unproven company when premier has been building lots of launched coasters over the years. I was originally going in May but i had a feeling they would have problems so i scheduled my trip for june but if its not open i will be skipping the park on my trip.


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Friday, March 25, 2016 5:00 PM

They are using some weird alternating blur effect in that uphill shot. The track may not be as bad as it looks. The downhill shot at 00:30 looks much smoother.

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Friday, March 25, 2016 5:06 PM

bigboy said:

I guess there's nothing else redeeming about Dollywood if Lightning Rod isn't open?

I visited Dollywood last October. It is an excellent park with several great coasters. The only downsides were:

1. Although I was there on a weekday, it was quite crowded.

2. Both Wild Eagle and Thunderhead were closed most of the afternoon due to wasps swarming the lift hills. It may not be a problem in the Spring, but they had pre-made signs stating the reason for closure so it must be a reoccurring problem.

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Friday, March 25, 2016 5:40 PM

I've always wondered who ate that first tomato then laid down and waited to see if they'd die from it. If nobody ever tried anything we'd have nothing.
I'm not going to play the "shoulda gone with X instead" game. As I recall, the Premier launched rides had their issues at first, with Outer Limits not opening until a couple months had passed. And as mentioned earlier, Mr. Freeze had issues and then there was Batman/Robin Chiller, and even one of their latest offerings, Full Throttle, had a delay as well.
As far as a park accepting new technology, why not? If it's a success then it's a huge one. Parks love to be able to say they have a "world's first", and if a ride manufacturer comes to them with something that's guaranteed to put their park on the map then they're likely to bite. And remember, it's not like RMC is some upstart, their portfolio is ever expanding Furthermore, Herschend is already familiar, having taken a chance with their highly successful, innovative, and ever so thrilling Outlaw Run. Which had its ups and downs at first as well.

Since we're all telling of our foiled plans, I had planned to go for my first time opening weekend and that was a fail, then I picked the first week of April and sadly, it looks like that may not work out either. I got cast in another play this summer and rehearsals start April 10 with our opening on Memorial Day weekend. So here I sit with a bag packed and a Senior Gold Season Pass in my hand, and I told everybody that if I disappear suddenly they should look in Tennessee first. But if all goes like things in my life usually do, I'm SOL til later in the season. Dammit.

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Friday, March 25, 2016 5:43 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

RCMAC said:

I've always wondered who ate that first tomato then laid down and waited to see if they'd die from it.

Probably the guy that was hungry enough to die if he didn't eat it.


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Friday, March 25, 2016 5:52 PM

And likely Italian. :-)

What was my mom's line? Something like "Well, you'd eat that liver and onions with Brussels sprouts if you were starving..."

Last edited by RCMAC, Friday, March 25, 2016 5:55 PM
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Friday, March 25, 2016 10:44 PM
rollergator's avatar

If and only if... ;-)

Last edited by rollergator, Friday, March 25, 2016 10:44 PM

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

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Saturday, March 26, 2016 3:05 AM

navrik said:
They are using some weird alternating blur effect in that uphill shot. The track may not be as bad as it looks. The downhill shot at 00:30 looks much smoother.

The two angles you mention could have been shot months apart from one another. There's no way to say that the track in one segment was the same as the track in another. It sounds like RMC has their hands full, and sub-contractors are an issue.

I was there this past Tuesday, and the park was fairly busy for opening week which coincided with Spring Breaks. Wild Eagle had the shortest line all day long, considering most of the GP consisted of younger families. And there was no visible maintenance or testing being done on Lightning Rod.

That said, I'm surprised (and curious) if Dollywood and RMC don't opt for a tire-driven launch. It seems like the trains would be an easy adaptation, it may provide a smoother launch without risking costly damage to magnets, and Firechaser Express already uses the same technology.

Edit: Dont know why I didn't address this earlier, but that "weird alternating blurring affect" is known as a rack-focus. You simply change how far away from the camera your lense focuses.

Last edited by cmwein, Saturday, March 26, 2016 3:12 AM
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Saturday, March 26, 2016 3:18 AM
Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

navrik said:

2. Both Wild Eagle and Thunderhead were closed most of the afternoon due to wasps swarming the lift hills. It may not be a problem in the Spring, but they had pre-made signs stating the reason for closure so it must be a reoccurring problem.

This sounds like a great sign. Did you happen to take a picture? I'm picturing a cartoon Dolly running from a swarm of wasps...


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Saturday, March 26, 2016 8:47 AM

The yellow jacket/wasp thing happens every fall at many parks. I've seen signs and closures at SDC and KI, too. The little house structure on top of this ride is designed to keep the pests at bay. Somehow. Maybe bees don't like little houses on top of rides. Or maybe they'll build their own little houses inside the structure keeping busy enough to leave everyone else alone as they go by.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016 10:39 AM

I am surprised of the finger pointing, I would have expected RMC to be a little more professional


There is no such thing as a terrible Coaster just ones that haven't been taken care of

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Saturday, March 26, 2016 12:14 PM

RCMAC - I think on some of Dollywood's other rides, the wasps swarmed around the top of the ride - the lift. The goal with the structure on Lightning Rod is for the wasps to swarm around the top of the structure instead.


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Saturday, March 26, 2016 11:11 PM

Jeff said:

The shot looking up the launch hill is, uh, intriguing. You're going to send something up an LSM launch with what looks like sloppy track gauge? How do you efficiently do that without beating up the passengers?

Whoa, that looks like reclaimed track from Son of Beast or something. Launch fins seem perfectly fine, track looks awful.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016 11:30 PM

I'm happy we are taking our first trip to Dollywood in September, and hopefully the sub contractor has everything under control by then so RMC can turn it over to Dollywood.

I dont think its right to throw them under the bus either. Its an RMC contract so they should treat all subs as part of RMC. After all they are the ones that entered into agreements with those companies. Unprofessional in my book.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016 10:35 AM
Raven-Phile's avatar

Flying Turns 2: Electric Bugaloo?


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Sunday, March 27, 2016 1:21 PM

Not quite like Flying Turns, maybe more like Maverick?


There is no such thing as a terrible Coaster just ones that haven't been taken care of

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Sunday, March 27, 2016 4:35 PM
LostKause's avatar

Only time will tell.


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Sunday, March 27, 2016 5:44 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

RCMAC said:

Well, coasters are designed to make it to the end from the top of a lift or even from a dead stop at a mid course brake, if there is one.

I've often wondered if this is really the case. Would Hulk make it to the MCBR if it trickled through the zero-g? Would Chiller: Robin have made it to the LIM's from the cobra roll? Cheetah Hunt from the top of the tower? Manta (San Diego) from that first turn? It's hard for me to imagine that every one of these coaster would actually make it...but it does strike me as terrible design if they didn't.


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Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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