Dollywood sets timeline for Lightning Rod changes

September 12, 2023, 7:57 PM · Dollywood announced today that its top-rated coaster, Lightning Rod, will close for the season October 30. Over the winter, the park will replace the coaster's troubled launch with a high-speed chain lift.

When Lightning Rod returns next spring, the coaster will have the same top speed of 73 mph and the same ride experience once over the initial life hill, the park said.

Dollywood Company President Eugene Naughton talked about the changes in a video released by the park today.

Lightning Rod ranked #7 overall in our Theme Park Insider roller coaster survey last year. If you would like to participate in this year's "best of" surveys, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

Replies (4)

September 13, 2023 at 8:36 AM

It's great to see RMC and Dollywood finally come up with a solution to this coaster's issues that will reduce the absurd amount of downtime that plagues Lightning Rod. However, it's concerning that they were never able to fix this. LSM lifts are nothing new, and will reportedly be used on the new 500' coaster at SF Saudi Arabia (Falcon's Flight). The one on Maverick (granted a pretty short lift hill) has been going strong for over 16 years, so it makes you wonder if it's the angle or the motors themselves that caused Lightning Rod to have so many issues. Nonetheless, I don't anticipate this to dramatically change the experience, and if it increases uptime, it will be a welcome change despite eliminating what made this coaster unique.

September 13, 2023 at 11:23 AM

Amen. When I made the trip to Dollywood some years ago, Lightning Rod was closed but most fortunately reopened and I was able to get six rides on it. Others were not so fortunate. I know someone who made the trip to Pigeon Forge only to find Lightning Rod closed for the duration of his visit. Anything which will make this coaster reliable is a step in the right direction.

September 13, 2023 at 1:25 PM

@russell, same here. have never understood why all of the issues. but sounds like maybe just never gonna happen so at least get this ride running regularly.

September 13, 2023 at 2:40 PM

The issue with this particular LSM lift was the wooden structure. The structure itself would sway upon launching the train and eventually misalign the magnets. This comes from an AMA RMC did a couple years ago.

I’m glad I got to experience the ride with the launch and it won’t be quite the same without it, but you can’t have the marquee roller coaster at a major regional park operating sporadically and with one train when it does. It’s a shame they removed so much of the wooden track before making this move, as there’s now very little to differentiate Lightning Rod from most other RMCs.

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