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Ghost Town In The Sky Discussion Thread

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^I remember that one, and I was surprised the park looked as good as it did, too. But I also agree that it probably wouldn't be wise to push too much for a summer 2012 opening. Surface features are one thing--infrastructure is another.

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Tears gathered in Alaska Presley’s eyes as she moved one step closer to attaining a Maggie Valley icon that has remained close to her heart but out of her possession for more than 50 years. Surrounded by supporters, former Ghost Town employees and her lawyer, Presley, a longtime Maggie Valley resident, listened as a foreclosure attorney dryly recited the property boundaries of Ghost Town in the Sky, a once-popular amusement park in Maggie Valley. Presley was one of about 20 people who attended the public auction of Ghost Town on Feb. 10 outside the Haywood County Courthouse. She is the only person who bid on the property at auction, offered $2.5 million for the property and its equipment. Competing buyers can file an upset bid for 10 days. Presley is now counting down the days until Feb. 20 to see if anyone places a counter bid. Presley, 88, hopes to leave a functioning and profitable Ghost Town as her legacy to Maggie Valley. “Maggie Valley has some of the best people in the world,” she said. “And without Ghost Town, they have been having a very, very hard time.” When the amusement park finally went up for sale, Presley just had to buy it. She said that a forever closed and abandoned Ghost Town is her “greatest fear.” “Maggie Valley needs it,” Presley said. “I’m most interested in getting it going for the prosperity of Haywood County.”


However, Maggie residents are no longer quick to pin their hopes on the reopening of an amusement park that has been a continual cause for disappointment during the past decade.


Driven by her heart


Acquiring Ghost Town has been a long process and restoring the amusement park to its original glory will be a struggle all its own, which is why Presley began renovating it months before the foreclosure was finalized. “This is the third time I’ve tried to help bring it back,” she said.


The to-do list is phenomenal. The rides and mock Old West town are decades old and in continual need of repair and upkeep, let alone the neglect they’ve seen since the park shut down three years ago. Presley has already started touching up the buildings, which are quick to show their wear given the beating they take from the elements on the high-elevation mountain top. Although she has made a few strides, there is still a lot of work to do and not much time to complete it before June, when she hopes to open at least a portion of the park. “It has taken so long (to foreclose),” Presley said. “It’s kind of up in the air how much I can get done before the season.” But, she does have a plan. Presley’s top priority is getting the chair lift and the incline railway working again. Tourists can only reach the mountaintop amusement park by the riding one of the two contraptions up the steep slope — but they have been in a seemingly perpetual state of malfunction in recent years. Visitors would park in a large lot at the bottom of the mountain and ride either the lift or railway up to the park’s entrance. Neither are currently operational. She has already purchased the parts needed to repair the incline railway, but it will still be about five months before it’s fixed, she said.


She must also assess the condition of the rides, particularly the roller coaster and drop tower. “What’s good I’ll keep; what’s good I’ll refurbish,” she said, adding that she has yet to have anyone evaluate them, and some may not be repairable.


In the past, rides did not receive the proper care and maintenance. They looked rundown and often broke down. When Ghost Town briefly reopened five years ago, the kiddy rides and Wild West Town were up and running, but the roller coaster and drop tower — which attracted a more adult crowd — failed to pass state inspections. Although the previous owners attempted to repair the coaster, it only opened temporarily before it was once again deemed a safety hazard.


Next to the rides and cosmetic improvements, one of the biggest projects associated with the renovation is a overhauling of its water system. The previous owners did not shut off the water to Ghost Town after it closed, subjecting the full pipes to the mountain freeze-and-thaw cycle. The already aging system is now likely in desperate need of repair. “That will be one of the worst things to do,” Presley said.


If she can overcome those hurdles and open Ghost Town for part of the tourist season, Presley can start earning revenue and hopefully move the park toward self-sustainability.


Bittersweet turn of events


People are cautiously optimistic about Presley’s endeavor. “Only an Alaska Presley could ever get Ghost Town to run again,” said Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown said. “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.”


While people disagree about what, if anything, the amusement park is worth, Presley’s long history with Ghost Town and her wherewithal seem indisputable. “If anybody can do it, she can do it,” said Teresa Smith, executive director of the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce. “I think she will definitely do the very best she can to get it up and running.”


Although the park has been closed for more than a year, the chamber still receives phone calls everyday asking if and when Ghost Town will reopen — an encouraging sign that if it is rebuilt, people will come. “It encourages families to come here,” Smith said. “It would just be something else for people to do.”


But, the economy is still struggling, and gas prices continue to bounce up and down. Both are problems that have affected Ghost Town’s visitation numbers in the past and could influence its bottom line in the future as well. “I think this go around those same worries are going to be there,” Smith said.


Town Alderman Phil Aldridge, who attended Friday’s event, said that residents are weary of anyone championing Ghost Town’s potential success after so many years of disappointments. Maggie Valley residents and business owners have had their hopes dashed before when investors promised to revive Ghost Town and bringing prosperity back to the valley. But still, Aldridge leans toward the hopeful point of view. Ghost Town was the “heartbeat” of Maggie Valley, he said. “It certainly can be again.”


When the amusement park profited, so did the town and county. In its heyday, 400,000 people visited Ghost Town each year, and families would pack into restaurants and motels along Maggie Valley’s main strip. Since the beginning of the recession and the park’s first closure in 2002, however, business in the valley has drastically declined.


Clock ticking


If Presley can’t open the park this season, it would cause “more damage,” she said. An open park means money to help cover upkeep and the employee payroll. It could also eventually mean more improvements — something already weighing on Presley’s mind. “It needs to have some high-tech stuff,” she said, throwing out the idea of adding a zip line.


And, while some little boys still play cowboys and Indians, the Wild West theme has lost some of its luster now that the golden years of John Wayne and “Bonanza” are over. “The western theme is passé now, and it needs the help,” Presley said. “The gun fights are good, but they are not enough.” Although Presley was unable to provide more specifics regarding improvements, she estimated that the entire project will cost in excess of $11 million. And, she said she is not planning to take out any loans, adding that Ghost Town has had enough debt problems. “Poor management and bad debts has plagued it for years,” Presley said. “A friend thought there was demons on that mountain; it has had such bad luck.” So, for now, she will foot the bill herself. “I have enough — to get started anyway,” Presley said. “I believe in paying as you go.”


Presley said she did not know how many employees she will need to reopen and operate the amusement park, but she has already hired Robert Bradley, a former gunfighter in the Wild West Town, to help with renovations and an armed guard to keep hoodlums off the property. “It’s been vandalized pretty bad, but I got guards up there now, and I’ve got cameras all over the mountain,” Presley said.


Like Presley, Bradley has been around since Ghost Town beginnings. “I started fallin’ off the roof in 1962,” he said, adding that Presley made him promise not to fall anymore now that he has passed 65. Bradley, who has known Presley for most of his 67 years, is happy to help and anxious to get back to work as director of entertainment — his previously held title. “I could probably put a show on next week,” Bradley said. “Give us two hours,” chimed in Tim Gardner, a.k.a. Marshall Red Dawg.


While Ghost Town has been shut down, Bradley and some of the old band of entertainers from the Wild West Town have traveled around the U.S. doing shows. People are still interested in seeing their performances, he said.


What is Ghost Town worth?


During Friday’s foreclosure proceeding, Presley bid $2.5 million for Ghost Town. But, that is not what she will actually pay for the property. The actual price tag is only $1.5 million, thanks to an interesting and non-traditional financing arrangement Presley struck to bail Ghost Town out of foreclosure.


When Ghost Town’s previous owners went bankrupt, BB&T was their biggest creditor — holding $10.5 million in debt. BB&T chased Ghost Town into bankruptcy and to the doorstep of foreclosure. But for the past 18 months, it hasn’t pulled the trigger on foreclosure — likely because it knew that the beleaguered park would fetch nowhere near what the bank was owed. The idea that anyone would pay anything close to $10 million for the dilapidated and broken down amusement park is inconceivable.


“Who is going to pay $10 million for Ghost Town? Well, nobody is,” said Waynesville Mayor and lawyer Gavin Brown. Instead of going forward with the foreclosure, BB&T sold its note to Presley for $1.5 million — a far cry less than the $10.5 million the bank is owed. “What they (did) is just cut their losses and run,” Brown said.


When Presley purchased the note, she all but ensured that Ghost Town would be hers. Presley now owns BB&T’s entire $10.5 million note against Ghost Town — even though she only paid $1.5 million for control of the note. Someone would have to bid more than $10.5 million before they could top what she has in it.


The foreclosure is a mere formality, as was the $2.5 million Presley bid for the park. In essence, her $2.5 million bid will come back to her since she is the primary note holder. So, not counting the court fees and related costs, how much did Presley pay for Ghost Town? The simple answer is $1.5 million — the amount BB&T sold its note for, Presley said.


Other possible investors have until Feb. 20 to place an upset bid. However, John Doe cannot simply walk off the street and offer a few cents more than Presley’s current bid for Ghost Town. Upset bids must be at least 5 percent higher and bidders must put down a percentage of their bid up front.


As for the millions owed to private investors and small businesses by Ghost Town’s former owners? They won’t be seeing a dime.

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It sounds like she certainly knows what she is doing. That was actually a pretty interesting read!


Pretty ambitious of her to try and get this open this season, but it makes sense if she can do it. The park will certainly not help the community closed.

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^Wouldn't be surprised at all to see the park open later this season (if the incline railway and/or chair lift are fixed). However, I would not be surprised if the rides are not operational until next year.


As enthusiasts this might seem odd, but locals need a place to go relax and enjoy time with their family. It's not about thrills. For many people parks (especially smaller ones) serve as an alternative to other forms of entertainment.

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If they can get people up the moutain, and the Ghost Town itself is in good shape, they might be able to open--although I"m still dubious about rushing to get ready, only to have attendance tank the first season. I guess I just need to see more of the plan before I'm entirely convinced that this will fly; however, Ms. Presley does seem to have a grasp of what needs doing (adding a zipline attraction is a very good idea).

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After reading this article, I'm not so sure whether or not this would work (Remember, in 2007, I visited the park and got burnt - burnt real bad), but as a hopeless optimistic, maybe she'll know what this park needs and managed to get the dang park open and generate so much profit that'll be the shot in the arm to get Maggie Valley back into the minds and maps of riders and amusement park flyers everywhere. It should be a park that anyone who visits would be or , but not nor .


After my visit in 2007, I amused myself in what additions this park will need in other to attract a rider and amusement park flyer (Like me ), although keeping in mind of the area's limited space (But I wouldn't know how big the area is; I only know the area that we were allowed to roam around, that's all), so I'm thinking that adding a mega-size coaster would be out of the question (But I would like to be proven wrong - plus remember that Busch Gardens in Williamsburg went its first two seasons before adding The Loch Ness Monster, maybe they could clear an unused section and put something exciting and amazing that would be a major draw). So until that is practical or not, I have made out a list of what I feel this park really needs.


#1 - It needs some type of log flume ride. Log flume always fit the Old West and they are a family fun ride.


#2 - It also needs a family coaster. Yes, it has Cliffhanger and it has some kiddie coaster that someone my age and size cannot get on, so it needs a coaster to fit right in the middle (I'm thinking the ever popular Mad Mouse coaster).


#3 - It needs another theme area. When I last visited Ghost Town in the Sky, I only counted three area: The second tier where Cliffhanger was, The Old West Town, and the rides area. It needs another area, such as Indian Village or maybe a fort.


#4 - Cliffhanger needs more partners. On the second tier, the only thing I saw was the Cliffhanger and some areas. Anyone in the amusement park business knows that the key is to spread out your visitors, so the second tier could use some more attractions. I was thinking of putting a Tilt-a-Whirl ride inside a pavilion and calling it "The Hoe-Down". Also, maybe a specialty shop or two. The visitors, when taking the shuttle bus from the upper tier, shouldn't have to take it just to ride Cliffhanger and take the skyride down, they should have more things to do in this area.


#5 - Additional flat rides that don't just spin you around. The park has plenty of that, but it could also use a bumper car atttraction (I thinking that the "Rough Riders" located at Holiday World would be ideal as their cars are shaped as steers , and a dark ride attraction (Anything related to the Old West, maybe even a Haunted Mine attraction).


#6 - And finally, the park could use more games to gather more money. I'm thinking of a shooting galley and other Old West-related games.


Well, those are my ideas. Of course, additions like that would take time and lots of $$$, but I'm sure that if the park uses my suggestions, then Ghost Town in the Sky would definately be a destination you would want to visit.


And maybe I'll have a better time on my next visit.


"Are you done yet? I ache for your head to lie upon!"

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#3 - It needs another theme area. When I last visited Ghost Town in the Sky, I only counted three area: The second tier where Cliffhanger was, The Old West Town, and the rides area. It needs another area, such as Indian Village or maybe a fort.


I dunno if it was open in the latter years, but it had a fort area- Fort Cherokee which featured several indian things.

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  • 3 weeks later...

^ Ah yes, you are correct; I did remember seeing something that did resemble a fort, but alas, it was




One more thing to note in regards to Busch Gardens Williamsburg: when the park first opened its doors in 1975, it was a small park. During the years of operation, it added more and more attractions and the park got bigger and bigger. It can be said the same of other amusement parks I know; such as Six Flags America (when it was just a small park called "Wild World") and Hersheypark. Who knows, should Ghost Town in the Sky be able to get off its knees and become a very productive park, who knows how big this park could become.


"Want to dream about that most perfect park? Then lay your head upon mine and it can be yours!"

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If they can get the incline to open, this would be a pretty start for Ghost Town...I recall that to be the biggest problem.


However, the elements that make theme parks successful this day in age [particularly smaller parks] are much different from the elements that made parks successful back in the 70's.


[1] A virtual shoot-em-up style dark ride would be good. I also saw a 4D shoot-em-up at Happy Valley in Shanghai that was pretty wild, where each person had his own horse that moved. But the movable types I think are more interesting for everyone.


[2] More flat rides wherever they can be fit in! The idea that there are still only a "few" things to do up there is still not so appealing. You need to give people a reason to stay, and to continue to come back again and again.


[3] There once was a walk-through ghost-house there. I recently went to a theme park that had 3 walk-throughs. They are cheap to build and fun.


[3] I think the best way to make this park unique and appealing to guests even outside of Maggie Valley would be to utilize the slope to the best of their ability. This could make way for a very intriguing and 1-of-a-kind waterpark. Even one or two slides to start might be appealing to outside guests! A western-themed children's splash pool would be pretty wild.


[4] Alpine slide?


[5] How about some good ol' North Carolina style BBQ? I had also heard that a museum was in the works about the history of Maggie Valley and the Appalachian Mountains. This could also be something unique and special.

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I also saw a 4D shoot-em-up at Happy Valley in Shanghai that was pretty wild, where each person had his own horse that moved. But the movable types I think are more interesting for everyone.


Are you talking about Desperadoes here? Something like that would be perfect for Ghost Town.

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Yeah, I am talking about Desperados! That was a cool little ride, and, yes, would be a perfect fit for Ghost Town. It seems to be small enough to easily fit somewhere within the confines of the park as well.


I think the biggest challenge for this park is the space. There is probably not so much more they can do within the space they have allotted, unless, of course, they want to dig out and flatten more land.


Once again, I think one of the things that could really make this park stand out on its own is to utilize the slope where the Cliffhanger is, if it can.

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Driving down Maggie Valley’s main drag, it’s hard not to notice the gauntlet of signs offering cheers of support for Ghost Town in the Sky’s new owner Alaska Presley. Business owners on both sides of U.S. 19 have rearranged the lettering on their message boards to thank or bless Presley for vowing to reopen Ghost Town, an amusement park that symbolizes past prosperity in Maggie Valley. “It makes me feel good,” Presley said of the encouraging notes.


Ghost Town has been closed for two years after going into bankruptcy but was purchased earlier this year by Presley who plans to reopen the park that once brought droves of visitors to Maggie Valley.


Weeds and other plant life have grown up around Ghost Town’s attractions, adding to its unkempt look. As she toured the park last week, Presley pointed out bushes and trees that would need to come down or be trimmed back and areas where brush must be cleared. Presley has already hired workers to tackle the greenery and is looking for contractors to make other necessary repairs. With a listed population of 681, the mock Wild West Town sits at an altitude of 4,600 feet. While obviously a victim of harsh mountaintop weathering, vandals left the most apparent blemishes — broken windows, doors and doorframes, and residue from fire extinguishers — throughout the small fictional town.


“The buildings to me seemed in pretty good shape,” said Teresa Smith, executive director of the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, adding that most of the work looked cosmetic.


Presley estimated that $2,500 worth of glass had been smashed but feels better now that she owns Ghost Town and can take action against any trespassers. “Now, I can do something whereas before I didn’t have the authority,” Presley said.


Presley has dreamed of owning Ghost Town ever since its original owner put it up for sale 10 years ago. It was shuttered for three years, reopened under new owners for a couple of years, but then fell into bankruptcy and was once again closed. Presley rescued the park after striking a well-planned financial arrangement with BB&T. While BB&T was owed $9.5 million by the previous owners, Presley bought it last month for just $1.5 million. But her work has only begun, as she embarks on a legacy project for the valley she loves: to restore the park to its former glory. The price tag is unknown, but she plans to tap her personal assets for the initial work.


Presley had previously remained quiet about some of her plans for Ghost Town’s revival but last week revealed her hopes to turn the highest of the park’s three levels into a religious-themed attraction. The top level currently houses a concert hall, kiddy rides and Native American village. However, Presley plans to move the children’s rides to Ghost Town’s lowest level, where other rides currently reside, and get rid of the village. In their place, Presley said she hopes to build large gold and white concert hall where people can hold religious events or performances. If her dream becomes a reality, the mountaintop would be crowned with statue of Jesus with a similar look to the one in Rio De Janeiro, Presley said.


A very long to-do list


For now, Presley is focused on getting Ghost Town’s core attractions up and running — fixing up the Old West town and getting the parks’ rides in working order — in hopes of a summer opening. All the amusement rides, including the park’s signature roller coaster and its all-important chairlift that takes tourists up the mountain, must pass inspection with the N.C. Department of Labor. That had proved a hurdle for past owners, partly because of a strained relationship.


To get the ball rolling, Presley invited Cherie Berry, the state labor commissioner, to tour the amusement park last week along with Maggie Valley leaders and media. During the tour of Ghost Town, Presley and Berry were “laughing, cutting up and holding hands,” Smith said. “That will be a really good working relationship.” Representatives from the Department of Labor said they were not surprised by the appearance of the park. The equipment looked much like they thought it would, considering the weathering it has undergone during the past two years, said Tom Chambers, chief of the Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau at the Department of Labor.


State officials have not been asked to conduct comprehensive tests on Ghost Town attractions as of yet and therefore could not provide opinions on how much or what type of work the rides need. It is still up-in-the-air as to which rides still work. “I don’t know what’s good and what’s not good,” Presley said.


No matter what, however, it is clear that Ghost Town still has its fans who will show up to visit the park when it opens. The Maggie Valley Chamber still receives messages everyday asking if Ghost Town is open.


Once Presley is able to fix transportation up the mountain, “I think people will be excited just to hear that the chairlift and incline are running,” Smith said.


As well as repairing the transit, however, Presley will need attractions that will draw all ages. One such addition would be a zipline, which Presley hopes to incorporate before opening. A zipline would be “awesome,” Smith said. “The thrill lovers would love it.”

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I completely agree about the zipline idea being a great fit.


I'm am concerned that ziplines are popping up all over the place and might not be as intriguing if there are other stand alone zip line tours in close proximity to Maggie Valley.

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Even though I'm not familiar with the parks layout, I would think with the existing chair lift and funicular that a series of Zip Lines from the top of the mountain to the bottom might could possibly be one of the better zip lines in the region.


Imagin doing a sip line basically right between the chair lift and railway that ends in the parking lot.

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Desperadoes is one of those underappreciated gems--a great "shoot-em-up" simulator.


Here are some photos of the ride from Happy Valley in Shanghai.


MOD EDIT: I edited your orignal post to include the second photo. You can do this too by using the "edit" button, so there's no need to double post.




Edited by cfc
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