Since late 2015, enthusiasts have been anticipating the opening of the world record-breaking wooden roller coaster, Lightning Rod. When Dollywood and Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) teamed up on this project, they sought to open the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster (73mph) and the first-ever launched wooden roller coaster. When an amusement park and/or manufacturer attempt to revolutionize the industry, it comes with many challenges. In the case of Lightning Rod, all of the bumps along the way are worth it. Sure, there’ll likely be faster wooden coasters in the future, and others might even be launch-based, but no other attraction can take away Lightning Rod’s title as being the first of its kind.
The Golden Ticket!
Since January of 2016, this highly-anticipated attraction was figured to be the odds-on favorite to take home the 2016 Golden Ticket Award for Best New Ride at an amusement park. While there were other great roller coasters like Mako, Storm Chaser, and Valravn scheduled to open, none of those were as unique and buzz-worthy in the eyes of many enthusiasts as Lightning Rod was. However, along the way, new challenges in the construction and testing phases of Lightning Rod popped up. As a result, its opening was delayed time and time again. While fans grew frustrated and Dollywood took some shots from the media and others, the park and RMC wanted to get the coaster right – both parties felt an obligation to deliver on this record-breaking project.
As the summer arrived, the coaster was not open. Eventually, the park was able to open it intermittently through technical rehearsals, but technical rehearsals could not guarantee that all guests in the park on those days could ride the new coaster. Over time, some speculated that there might be a situation where many of the voters may not get a chance to experience Lightning Rod and that, consequently, another great new attraction would take the honors in 2016. However, with approximately 20% of the overall vote, Dollywood’s Lightning Rod was ridden by many of this year’s voters. While the list of new attractions in 2016 was plentiful, voters were able to experience most of these great thrill rides to make an informed decision. Ultimately, Lightning Rod lived up and often exceeded expectation. Congratulations to the teams at Dollywood and RMC!