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‘It is a go!’ Plan with a twist unveiled for Ghost Town in the Sky restart
Monday, 15 November 2021 12:07
Will be different from past, but 
won’t mimic Myrtle Beach, Gatlinburg

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MAGGIE VALLEY — A team of developers recently decided to proceed with plans to stage a comeback of the long-shuttered Ghost Town In The Sky theme park here — and likely with a new twist.

“It is a ‘go,’ but I don’t want people to think there will be cranes up there tomorrow,” Dave Angel, local spokesman for the project, told the Daily Planet on Nov. 9 in a telephone interview, providing the most solid confirmation yet that the theme park, which, ironically, has become a real ghost town, will be resurrected soon. 

Ghost Town In The Sky, a Wild West-themed amusement park that has been closed since 2002, is perched high on Buck Mountain overlooking Maggie Valley. It originally opened in May 1961.

“The park needs a lot of work. which is a part of why it was shut down in the first place,” Charlotte-based Kiss 95.1 FM notted in its Oct. 28 update on Ghost Town in the Sky.

To that end, design and production company Storyland Studios has been hired to create a vision for the project, an Oct. 26th press release from the developers stated.
“While just now official, the collaboration had been rumored for several months,” Kiss 95.1 FM reported on Oct. 28 — and Angel confirmed to the Daily Planet on Nov. 9 that the project has received approval from the team of developers to advance. Angel is owner Elevated Mountain Distilling Co. in Maggie Valley.

“Storyland Studios is a company that is run by previous Disney ‘imagineers,’ so it is touted as being able to bring creativity and quality to the Ghost Town,” the Charlotte FM radio station noted. “Besides Disney, they also are credited with Universal Orlando’s Hogwarts Express, the Legoland Waterpark, and FAO Schwarz.

"The new reincarnation will look very different from its past. While plans are not final, at least to the public, renderings feature shopping, dining, entertainment, as well as residential use. While the fate of the parks original rides is unknown, there could be some rides, like a Ferris wheel.”

Contrary to the Kiss 95.1 report, Angel told the Daily Planet that, as far as adding a Ferris wheel, “I think that’s all up for discussion.”

What’s more, a spokesperson for the project was quoted by the Smoky Mountain News recently as saying that the “lower level of Ghost Town might look something like ‘Broadway on the Beach’ in Myrtle Beach (S.C.).”

Once again to the contrary, the assertion that any portion of the project might be redesigned to look like tourist draws in Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg, Tenn., are not — to his understanding — the direction the developers are considering, Angel asserted pointedly in the Daily Planet interview.

“I never heard anyone (among the developers) say it’ll look like ‘Broadway on the Beach.’”

He also told the Daily Planet, “One of the lead developers (Frankie Wood) is from Myrtle Beach — and a lot of people (around Maggie Valley) say he’s trying to turn Ghost Town in the Sky into Myrtle Beach.”

Once again, to the contrary, Angel reiterated, “We want to ‘vision’ something (through Storyland Studios) that fits Maggie Valley — something that fits the culture and community of Maggie Valley.

“Maggie Valley doesn’t want to be a Myrtle Beach or a Gatlinburg,” Angel repeatedly told the Daily Planet. “We want to create what works best for us,” without emulating the two aforementioned tourist cities.

Kiss 95.1 noted in its story that “the Ghost Town would bring much-needed tourism to this gorgeous area of North Carolina. While no opening date is set for the development, sources said it will be after 2022 before it is complete.” 

In response, after a reporter read the aforementioned Kiss 95.1 report to him over the phone, Angel told the Daily Planet, “I’m not necessarily saying that that’s not true. The first focus is the lower level. So we’re still trying to figure out what that’ll look like.” He also confirmed that there is not yet a timeline on a portion of — or the complete comeback plan for — Ghost Town in the Sky.

Angel also confirmed that, after the first level (including the A-frame former theme park welcome center and parking lot) is redeveloped, the upper level (with the actual Ghost Town) would be the second part of the project to be redeveloped.

Among possibilities Angel confirmed for the lower level are hotels, retail, restaurants and events, among others.

He added, “We know we need to develop the lower level first because that is first place people will come.

“There are parts of it that are dilapidated (some of the older buildings) and there are parts of it that are really in good shape — some of the newer buildings,” Angel said.

He noted that it is a matter of “what can you refurbish and use — and what can you build back... Maybe the same thing — or something different.”

Angel repeatedly expressed enthusiasm about Storyland Studios’ ability to help create a new vision for Ghost Town in the Sky.

Storyland will address “how do we look at Ghost Town in the Sky as a more modern attraction? How can we look at the history and the tradition of the (Maggie Valley) area — and maybe build something around that. Or something that would compliment that.”

He then emphasized to the Daily Planet, “We’re not trying to ‘go away’ from (the) Ghost Town in the Sky (concept), but we recognize that what was successful (with tourists) in the 1960s and ‘70s would probably not fully meet the customers’ interest’ today. “They (Storyland Stuidios) have the track record and ability to take what we want to the next level....

“It’s more about embracing the past and creating a new experience,” Angel added.

In concluding, he expressed concern about the possibility of those who are curious now trying to visit the upper level (ghost town) of the park, which is posted with numerous “no trespassing” signs. 

To that end, Angel said, “We discourage people from trying to visit the park because it’s private property — and we’re trying to preserve what we have. We’re trying to stop the vandalism.”


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