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Ghost Town In The Sky Discussion Thread

P. 11: Storyland Studios selected to redesign the park

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  • 2 months later...

I'm still surprised they think bringing back the park in the format it was years ago will be enough to make it thrive... This park has become a money pit and you'd think that the past unsuccessful attempts would be enough to ward off prospective investors. I hope this place finds lasting success because it looks like a cool operation with a unique charm, but I'm not holding my breath.

 

That said, this is a MUCH better plan than turning this into a religious park like Mrs. Presley planned to do.

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I'm still surprised they think bringing back the park in the format it was years ago will be enough to make it thrive... This park has become a money pit and you'd think that the past unsuccessful attempts would be enough to ward off prospective investors. I hope this place finds lasting success because it looks like a cool operation with a unique charm, but I'm not holding my breath.

 

That said, this is a MUCH better plan than turning this into a religious park like Mrs. Presley planned to do.

 

There's nothing else for it really to be. It's either going to be that kind of attraction or its gonna become luxury mountain top housing (in an area that is pretty much Methville, NC) ot its gonna sit idle for a few decades/forever.

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I don't understand how this place is going to be successful with the "Ghost Town" brand. As cringeworthy as it was, the "Resurrection Mountain" idea had some viability in this area of the country. Ghost Town is basically the same premise as everything in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge only way smaller and less interesting. I'd say that this might appeal to locals but I mean... what locals? Nobody lives there and I don't see many people from Asheville making the drive. If you're willing to drive an hour to go to Ghost Town, drive an extra hour and go to Dollywood or Gatlinburg which is basically Ghost Town on steroids.

Yeah, this reminds me a lot of Dogpatch, an hour away from and the same premise as Silver Dollar City. It's had rumours of resurrection, but nothing's ever come of it, because who wants to go to Harrison, Arkansas, when Branson, Missouri, is an hour away?

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  • 4 months later...

https://www.themountaineer.com/news/newest-ghost-town-endeavor-hits-a-major-snag/article_700ae5be-ffc9-11e8-ae1b-cbf618b9bdcd.html

 

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The building at the foot of the hill in front of Ghost Town received over ,000 in repairs before Lamar Berry left town, leaving the bill unpaid.

The latest attempt to reinvigorate the aging Ghost Town amusement park in Maggie Valley has hit yet another major stumbling block, as one of the central figures in the efforts to restore the park has left the project amid accusations of fraud and failure to pay.

 

Lamar Berry, one of three principals in an LLC created to purchase the park from Ghost Town owner Alaska Presley, left town for parts unknown on Dec. 4, after other partners in the project began to press him for a timeline for the millions of dollars in investments he’d promised would serve as the engine driving the project forward.

 

“When we started questioning him on his sources of funding, he quit coming to the office,” said Allen Alsbrooks, the finance director for the New Ghost Town project before it was scuttled.

 

Alsbrooks joined the team after performing some landscaping work for the group, and quickly moved into a leadership position alongside Berry and former Disney executives Valerie and Spencer Oberle. He was initially asked to do some accounting work for the group, and was ultimately given the finance director job.

 

The plan, Alsbrooks said, was for the group to invest some of their own money as a stopgap measure while Berry lined up major investors to get the project off the ground. The Oberles and Alsbrooks put money into the project for that purpose, along with fellow investor and part owner John Kovack, but Berry didn’t have any of his own money invested. In fact, according to Alsbrooks, Berry’s involvement was minimal across the board, but he was designated as one of three principals in the company along with two associates in Louisiana — Charlton Ogden and Gary Dixon.

 

“Valerie and Spencer and I and one of their friends are the only three people outside of that Louisiana Triangle with actual money in the project,” Alsbrooks said. “We’ve worked every day on plans, on what it will take to bring it back to life, we’re the ones who were setting up timelines and budgets, planning restaurants and merchandise.”

 

The money never arrived, though — Alsbrooks said there was a laundry list of excuses for why investors never came through, to the point where the group reached the inevitable conclusion that there would be no investors brought onboard. By the second week of September, they’d agreed that the promises were essentially meaningless.

 

“I put my money in back in June, and I was supposed to have it back in July, but then something would happen and no money would come,” Alsbrooks said. “Then we’d get a new date and no money would come.”

 

Room and board

Alsbrooks owns Hearth and Home Inn in Waynesville, and he said Berry had been staying there while he worked on the project. With finances running pretty tight, the group agreed they would all pay their own costs when necessary, including lodging costs.

 

“Instead of the company paying it, they paid their own bills,” Alsbrooks said. “Lamar never did, and each time I made up a bill at the end of the month and gave it to them so it would be recorded in the system. Finally, it got to the point where it was $3,300 or so.”

 

Alsbrooks said the group confronted Berry about the money near the end of September, at which point he left the motel without settling the bill. Berry moved into Presley’s basement, and stopped showing up to the office.

 

“He said he’d handle it and he walked out,” Alsbrooks said. “That’s when he quit coming in, because there was always a confrontation about the investment money.”

 

Alsbrooks has since filed a lawsuit against Berry, accusing him of “defrauding an innkeeper.” That suit has yet to be settled.

 

The $3,300 in unpaid lodging expenses is small potatoes compared to a lien filed for $52,551 by Clark and Leatherwood, Inc., the construction company overseeing the work done on the property so far. In the claim, Clark and Leatherwood asserts that labor and materials valued at that amount were furnished to complete the rehabilitation of Ghost Town’s A-frame building, various inspections and consulting on the foundations for the park’s chairlift. The lien was placed on the property on Oct. 31.

 

The path ahead

With regards to Berry’s involvement in the project and his partners in Louisiana, Alsbrooks said they are no longer in the picture in any way.

 

“New Ghost Town is done, absolutely, unless by some miracle of miracles he finds money and comes back with it,” he said.

 

As for the remaining partners in the project, it’s not clear what the future holds. There are no confirmed plans to abandon the project or move forward in a different direction. Alsbrooks said the Maggie Valley partners are doing their due diligence to assess the state of the project, but it’s too early to say definitively if they’ll be continuing on without Berry or not.

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  • 5 months later...

An accurate recap of the past 10 years

 

https://www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/27033-2009-ghost-town-comes-crashing-down

 

2009: Ghost Town comes crashing down

Written by Cory Vaillancourt, Smoky Mountain News, 05 June 2019

 

Decades after it first opened in 1962, Ghost Town in the Sky still commands a wistful loyalty from thousands of people who remember it during its heyday and are eager to return.

 

Even now, Facebook groups devoted to the mountaintop amusement park in Maggie Valley see regular posts from people around the world asking, “It is open? Will it open? When?”

 

It’s not, and hasn’t been for some time; almost 20 years ago, the park began a long, slow slide into disrepair that opportunistic entrepreneurs are still trying to sort out, but 2009 was the year it all really started to fall apart.

 

As current park owner Alaska Presley tells it, Virginia native R.B. Coburn was all set to put his amusement park in Ratcliff Cove, on the other end of Haywood County, until someone sent him to her.

Kim's Pharmacy

 

“We got acquainted with him and then Hubert, my husband, took him over to see uncle Dan Carpenter who owned that property on the mountain,” Presley told The Smoky Mountain News in April of this year. “He and my husband built Ghost Town.”

 

Up to 400,000 people a year flocked to the park, accessed from its iconic chair lift 1,400 feet below. When they arrived at the top, they were greeted by an old-timey wild west-themed main street, carnival-style rides and dozens of costumed performers — dancers, merchants and gunslingers who each day would act out cowboy gunfights in the streets.

 

“I had to hide behind my daddy because I was afraid of the gunfire,” said Spartanburg resident Libby Withers Wilder, who nonetheless still holds fond memories of going there as a child in the 1960s with her family.

 

After years of declining revenues, likely due to the growing prominence of more modern mega-parks featuring licensed characters — from Bugs Bunny to Batman — R.B. Coburn finally retired in 2002, and closed the park. There it sat, for five long years, until new owners reopened it just in time for the greatest recession in modern history.

 

Ticket sales in 2008 were reported as “sluggish,” as gas prices surged and the Great Recession laid waste to the lifetime investments of millions of working-class Americans of the type who’d kept the park afloat all those years.

 

By 2009, almost $500,000 worth of liens had been placed on the property, according to Ghost Town’s then-General Manager Steve Shiver, and Ghost Town LLC — more than $12 million in debt — also owed $2.5 million to 220 local vendors and contractors, including more than $97,000 in sales tax collections owed to the state and $70,000 in municipal and county property taxes.

 

The company approached tight-fisted lenders without success, and ended up pouring nearly $4 million of its own money into the constant repairs and renovations required, but still had to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

 

“We were on the cusp of making this thing work, and then the credit markets absolutely fell apart,” said Shiver in March 2009.

 

As Shiver — and thousands of others — looked forward to the park’s May 2009 opening, Ghost Town’s signature attraction, a roller coaster called “The Cliffhanger,” hadn’t run since 2002 and was still having trouble getting certified by the state regulatory agency charged with amusement ride inspections.

 

In late April of 2009, Ghost Town asked the Town of Maggie Valley for a $200,000 loan — about $125 per taxpayer — and said it was critically needed if the park was to reopen at all.

 

“We are in a tedious and precarious time. We wouldn’t be here unless we were at the end of our rope,” said Shiver. “My whole livelihood is at stake and my whole future is at stake.”

 

Alderman Mark DeMeola told Shiver he was reluctant to put taxpayers on the hook, but Shiver countered that without a healthy Ghost Town, taxpayers would suffer as well.

 

After a contentious few weeks arguing over the issue with Shiver, the town held a public hearing on May 18, just days before the park’s scheduled May 22 opening. In an odd twist, Shiver told Maggie Valley Aldermen at that meeting that he would withdraw his loan request because a private business owner had offered to help.

 

Although the park did open on time, albeit with a $3 increase in the $28 adult ticket price, the roller coaster still wasn’t licensed.

 

That didn’t sit well with some, like Greenville, South Carolina residents Judy and Keith Parker who at the time owned a second home in Maggie Valley and told The Smoky Mountain News that they wouldn’t go up the mountain until everything was working.

 

“We are kind of holding off until then,” said Judy.

 

The rebuilt coaster did indeed open, on July 1, but only for that day; state inspectors shut it down the next morning over a hairline crack in the seat frame on one of the cars.

 

In August, The Smoky Mountain News reported that even the $1.53 million in revenue the park took in during May, June and July wasn’t enough to cover operating costs of $1.85 million.

 

When the park closed for the season in the fall of 2009, workers were stiffed on their last two weeks of pay. The Maggie Valley Sanitary District even had to shut off water to the site, due to unpaid bills.

 

The situation only worsened from there. Months after that ill-fated 2009 season, in February 2010, a 175-foot-wide mudslide stretching more than half a mile brought 30-foot high heaps of debris down Rich Cove Road at 30 miles per hour. Rich Cove Road is an access road that leads up to the park.

 

Two weeks later, creditors voted to reorganize, rather than liquidate, the park and its massive debt. In May, owner of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Al Harper offered to put up $7 million to stave off foreclosure and buy out all of the original 2006 investors.

 

That plan fell through, and Ghost Town never reopened for the 2010 season. In August, BB&T foreclosed on the park, citing $9.5 million it had been owed, dating back to 2007. The park didn’t open in 2011, either, but in February 2012, that same “private business owner” who helped Shiver with the last-minute $200,000 loan in 2009 stepped up to buy the park at auction, for $2.5 million.

 

“Only an Alaska Presley could ever get Ghost Town to run again,” Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown told SMN writer Caitlin Bowling at the time. “She is a very sharp lady; she sees value there. [but] in today’s market, in today’s world, I don’t see any value there.”

 

Presley quickly found major mechanical and cosmetic issues at the park, including with the coaster, the chair lift and the water supply. She estimated it would cost about $11 million to restore it to its former glory.

 

“Poor management and bad debts has plagued it for years,” Presley told Bowling in that same story. “A friend thought there was demons on that mountain, it has had such bad luck.”

 

The park stumbled along for the next four years, opening periodically, sporadically, partially or temporarily, until in June 2016, more than 15 years after R.B. Coburn first closed it, it failed to open and hasn’t reopened since.

 

A month later, Libby Withers Wilder was lucky enough to be given permission to visit Ghost Town once more, with her brother Mike.

 

“He had been sick for probably the last 20 years of his life,” said Wilder, who sprinkled Mike’s earthly remains near Ghost Town’s church and faux cemetery. “He would joke about it — he didn’t want a memorial, he didn’t want an obituary posted, he didn’t want a gravesite. He said ‘If you can take me to the mountains, and you can take me to Ghost Town, that would be fine.’”

 

Not long after Mike’s visit, the property was put up for sale by Presley at $5.95 million.

 

In June 2018, another group of investors sought to succeed where others, including Presley, had failed. Former Disney executives Valerie and Spence Oberle said a deal was in the works to rehab the park, but as the rest of 2018 played out, that deal was revealed to be little more than a wish upon a star.

 

It started with a series of botched public relations events that had even longtime Maggie Valley residents scratching their heads; a promised media event, memorabilia sale and late fall reopening never happened, and then a strange series of anonymous letters began showing up at The Smoky Mountain News.

 

The Oberles, as it turns out, had another business partner who they’d kept in the background, perhaps purposely.

 

Lamar Berry, once the chief marketing officer of well-known fried chicken chain Popeye’s, was the money man — charged with rustling up the dollars they’d need to purchase Ghost Town from Presley.

 

Turns out, Berry was haunted by allegations of fraud and failure in regard to a unsuccessful 2005 effort to establish a chain of sandwich shops modeled after epic layabout and passionate sandwich-eater Dagwood, of the classic Chic Young comic strips.

 

Peter J. Tamulonis, an investor in the franchise, sued Berry and others, settling in arbitration.

 

“When you think about the legal position for what we were saying, we were able to prove we were lied to and misled,” Tamulonis told SMN in 2018, “I would say I had a horrible experience and you should investigate this guy. I would be very concerned about letting him touch my money or any of my loved ones’ money.”

 

Another Berry project, a proposed boardwalk in Lake Charles, Louisiana, also fell apart in 2010 “because those behind it say they never could get the financing to pull it all together,” according to an October 2016 report by KPLC-TV.

 

In October 2018, a lien was filed against Ghost Town by local engineering firm Clark and Leatherwood for $52,551 in labor and materials used in the rehabilitation of the park’s A-frame entrance building from June 4 through Aug. 31. That same month, Berry was sued by a local innkeeper who said he was owed more than $3,000 for lodgings.

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Berry wasn’t able to come up with the money to buy the park by a previously established Nov. 30 deadline and subsequently left town.

 

Presley’s still looking for a buyer, and the Oberles are again purportedly in the mix, but nothing’s really changed since the last futile attempt to revive the park.

 

Even though people continue to clamor for it — Haywood Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Lynn Collins recently said she still gets regular calls inquiring as to the status of the park — residents of the tiny Haywood County town of Maggie Valley have learned to live without it, even though they’d welcome a rejuvenated Ghost Town.

 

“Everybody bases everything on Ghost Town,” said Brenda O’Keefe, former owner of equally-iconic Joey’s Pancake House, in Maggie Valley. “I don’t. I have tried to say, ‘People, this is not about Ghost Town anymore. This is 50 or 60 years later. We have the national park, we have the Smoky Mountains, we have the Blue Ridge Parkway.’ That’s what Maggie Valley is really about. We have the Appalachian culture, clean streams and rivers and we’re the closest mountain range to Florida. That’s why people are coming here.”

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  • 1 month later...

Ghost Town in the Sky is up for sale once again... This time for $5.95 million. Any plans to reopen the park in 2019 are once again on hold.

 

gt_-_incline_rail_station__amp__car__skyride__cliffhanger.jpg.203701870b6a4a030aeba234ef0f2b21.jpg

 

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article232242782.html

 

An infamous ghost town theme park in western North Carolina won’t reopen as expected this year, adding fuel to its reputation of being “cursed.”

 

Ghost Town in the Sky — which sits atop its own mountain — had planned a grand reopening in the spring.

 

However, the site is now up for sale for $5.95 million, according to LoopNet.com.

 

Valerie Oberle, part of a management team trying to revive the park, confirmed to The Charlotte Observer that the property owner has it on the market.

 

But Oberle said she and her husband, Spencer, have not given up on their dream to reopen the Wild West themed park.

 

“Our offer expired, but we are still seeking funding,” she told the Observer. “This is a tough one, as the property continues to deteriorate as the owner has not taken any measures to preserve.”

 

The 250-acre site is considered one of the world’s most infamous shuttered theme parks.

 

Located 150 miles northwest of Charlotte in Maggie Valley, it has become internationally known partly for the mishaps that have plagued it, but also because it is a popular destination for an Internet fad known as urban exploration, or Urbex, the Charlotte Observer reported last year.

 

Such explorers seek out “forgotten” sites and “forbidden places” like old theme parks and shuttered shopping malls, and post photos and videos of their adventures on social media sites devoted to “ruin porn.”

 

RomanticAsheville.com reported last year that Spencer and Valerie Oberle had a “5-year plan for renovations and expansion” that would maintain the park’s western town theme, while adding “new high-tech experiences.”

 

Ghost Town in the Sky opened in 1961 as a replica Wild West town, and offered staged gun fights in front of park visitors. At its height, the park attracted 400,000 visitors, the Observer reported in 2007.

 

The park has been frequently referred to as “cursed” because of the many mishaps reported there since it opened. As a result, it has been closed and reopened multiple times, most recently in 2016, according to RoadsideAmerica.com.

 

The mishaps include mud slides, equipment failures that trapped patrons for hours on a sky lift and a 2013 incident in which one of the park’s cowboys was wounded by a real bullet during a fake gunfight, the Observer reported in 2017.

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  • 3 months later...

Ghost Town In the Sky is under contract again... There is still a period of due diligence that allows for the deal to be severed, but if it completes, the Maggie Valley park may get a new lease on life.

 

https://www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/27721-ghost-town-under-contract-again

 

Beloved but long-shuttered Maggie Valley mountaintop amusement park Ghost Town in the Sky is once again under contract, giving new hope to those who long for the park’s revitalization.

 

“There is a new person involved in Ghost Town,” said Nathan Clark, Maggie Valley’s town manager. “They are in the due diligence period, and they do have a contract to the best of my understanding. They’re looking at what can be done at Ghost Town.”

 

Linda Taylor, broker/owner of ViP Realty, has been representing the developer and confirmed that he signed the contract in mid-August, but cautioned that the due diligence period is a long one — 120 days or more.

 

The developer is using that time to fully investigate the infrastructure problems that have plagued the site for years.

 

Ron Breese

“Right now there are just very general conversations about how sewer was planned to go to the mountain,” Clark said. “We’ve met with them on some water and sewer issues a couple of times. They have looked at former grant applications and former sewer plans that previous ownership groups had looked at but never completed.”

 

In addition to the water and sewer problems, any potential developer would also have to deal with another more recent but no less unfortunate situation at the park, which failed to reopen in 2016 after several years of sporadic operation.

 

“There has been some vandalism,” said Taylor said, adding that the site was now under the control of the developer and that enhanced security measures had already been implemented. “There is zero tolerance for trespassing.”

 

Taylor couldn’t reveal the identity of the potential buyer, but did release a few tantalizing details, namely, that he’s not in any way affiliated with the property’s most recent suitors.

 

Former Disney execs Valerie and Spencer Oberle, along with business partner Lamar Berry, attempted to buy the park from owner Alaska Presley last year, but left only liens and lawsuits in their wake after the deal fell through.

 

Unlike Berry and the Oberles, the current prospective buyer has the “wherewithal” to line up funding for the deal, according to Taylor.

 

Taylor also said that the mystery buyer’s recent visit to the top of Buck Mountain wasn’t his first.

 

“He has some really good childhood memories of the park,” Taylor said. “Just like generations of people in the Southeast.”

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:lol: I'd say "just let it die" but I guess what else would you really put there?

 

There's no shortage of tourists to the region these days and it seems to expand neverendingly (Helen, GA is now Gatlinburg 2.0). But you have to be willing to invest.

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Storyland Studios has been selected to redesign Ghost Town in the Sky in the latest attempt to revive the park. 

61780dffe67f8.image.thumb.jpg.0ba50b3ee8b23adf9e5eca093a906f41.jpg

https://www.themountaineer.com/news/storyland-studios-to-design-shuttered-ghost-town-resurrection/article_fcb0c3de-3609-11ec-bf84-53645f9cc306.html

Storyland Studios, a company run by Disney Imagineers with a successful 20-year history in the themed entertainment industry, has been selected to redesign the long-closed Ghost Town in The Sky. The firm specializes in theme park master planning, strategy and feasibility studies, concept design, architecture and integrated marketing.

“We selected Storyland because of their experience on so many theme parks around the world. They have a team that can help us get our brand story right, redesign the park and help us bring it to life and make it successful,” said Frankie Wood, managing member of Ghost Town in the Sky LLC.

Wood has been meeting with part-time Maggie Valley resident Matt Ferguson, chief innovation officer for Storyland Studios on the project for about a year. “We want to bring back everything people remembered and loved about Ghost Town,” said Ferguson. “We still plan to have the Old West town. We expect to have stunt showdowns, can-can shows, music and entertainment. But we also plan to update the attractions to compete with the best storytelling experiences in the world and have stronger connections with the park’s location in the Great Smoky Mountains.”

The Storyland team’s resume includes work on projects such as the LEGOLAND® Water Park, Universal Orlando’s Hogwarts Express, the new FAO Schwarz store in New York City, to name a few.

Early plans call for on-property lodging, including a mountain lodge, boutique hotel and spa, cabins and cottages.

Ghost Town in the Sky opened in 1961 at the height of Western film and television’s popularity. In addition to an authentic-looking Old West main street, Ghost Town in the Sky had an iron roller coaster on the side of the mountain, as well as a selection of rides and attractions.

Ghost Town’s existing buildings will be rehabbed so that the refreshed main street looks almost identical to the original construction, a press release indicated.

This spring, the park hosted gunflight shows for a closed audience to celebrate the coming redesign. “The excitement was palpable,” said Ferguson. “Our team is thrilled to be a part of bringing this special park back to life.”

In a Monday interview, Ferguson said his family has been coming to Maggie for 30-plus years, and that he’s had a home in the community for a decade. “My back deck overlooks Buck Mountain, so I have a vested interest in making sure this thing is well done,” he said. “It’s my understanding we’ve overcome the hurdles of approval, so the project is very doable at this point. The money is there. I had the opportunity to meet with a number of the investors. They are on board and excited.”

Ferguson said many don’t understand what it takes to lay prepare for a project like this. “Frankie is experienced and very good at making sure the groundwork is laid so we can get this done on time and on budget,” Ferguson said. “His due diligence has been top notch and that’s what’s taking a couple years.”

Ferguson said a timeline isn’t in place yet, but the project is close to moving ahead. “I feel like many of the objectors might not have lived here when Ghost Town was thriving,” he said. “There was only two-lane back then.”

With a four-lane divided highway in place, traffic issues shouldn’t be a concern, he said. “I feel confident this group of investors and developers is the one to push the ball over the goal line. These guys are really smart about putting these things together as far as grant funds and investors go,” Ferguson said. “I’ve heard concerns that Maggie Valley could become another Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg, but everything we do will be in keeping with mountain charm and a tasteful mountain town.”

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