Lightning Rod, Dollywood

UPDATE March 25 - For those roller coaster fans intrigued about the recently reopened Lightning Rod at Dollywood, well here is a newly released POV of it in action at Dollywood.

So far, there have been positive reviews regarding this reimagining from the notoriously unreliable launched version to the new version which includes a high-speed chain lift. Take a look for yourself with this front-row POV which is embedded below.

Although it is evident that we will have to wait patiently for it to reach its full potential in terms of speed, the key positive with the change from launch to high-speed lift chain is that it is now appears to be a lot more reliable so guests heading to Dollywood should be able to expect it to be open rather than facing the previous disappointment of it being closed. 

March 23, 2024 - Dollywood reopened on Friday March 8 and with it we have seen the reopening of Lightning Rod. We heard last September that after ongoing issues, the park had made the decision to remove the iconic launch and replace it with a "high-speed chain lift".

In a new video posted to YouTube by ElToroRyan we see the new Lightning Rod in action. So far, first impressions are positive and the lift hill is confirmed as being high-speed. There have been lots of comments online saying that Lightning Rod isn't as fast as it used to be. As it is the start of the season, Lightning Rod isn't broken in just yet but riders can expect by the summer for it to be back to its expected speed.

Just to confirm, the first three hills after the first drop are still wood which gives the roller coaster a different feel at that point.

September 14, 2023 - Theme Park enthusiasts will likely have already heard the news that Dollywood has made the decision to close it's wooden launch coaster, Lightning Rod on October 30 in order to replace the iconic launch. It has been confirmed that the coaster will reopen in Spring 2024.

Lightning Rod is manufactured by RMC and it opened in June 2016, it was not only the tallest and fastest but surprised roller coaster fans by having a launch which was a first for a wooden roller coaster. 

For many roller coaster fans, Lightning Rod sits as a favorite, that's if you can actually get the opportunity to ride it. We will explore the question, has Dollywood made the right decision to get rid of the launch? But first, let's cover what is being done, will it have new trains and will it get a new name?

What is being done?

Dollywood has announced that the launch element to Lightning Rod will be taken out and will be replaced with a "high-speed chain lift". Although this will change the whole feel of the beginning of this much loved roller coaster, Dollywood explains in the video embedded below that as soon as you crest the first hill, the experience will be the same as before. This will be excellent news for fans of this RMC wooden roller coaster.

It is also important to note that the ascent up the lift hill will be a quick one which should still make for an exciting start to the ride as you hit the top at 13mph which Dollywood claims will almost be the same speed when compared to the launch.

Will Lightning Rod have new trains?

The answer is yes, Lightning Rod is set to have two new trains which will allow for a refreshed feel and gives Dollywood the opportunity to update the theming. Although the exact type of trains has not been confirmed yet, there is speculation that these will be second generation RMC trains similar to the ones used on Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa. So far, there has not been any mention of any significant changes to the theming of Lightning Rod which is likely to please fans.

Will Lightning Rod be renamed?

Lightning Rod, Dollywood
Image: Dollywood

Although nothing has been confirmed by Dollywood regarding a change of name, we expect the Lighting Rod name to remain but we hope to see a slight change. At the end of the video embedded above it promises that "LIGHTNING ROD WILL BE RECHARGED IN 2024". If Dollywood is looking to revamp the name, we think "Lightning Rod Recharged" would be a great way to do it. Let us know your thoughts in our poll below or your ideas for catchy additions to the name for when Lightning Rod reopens in 2024.

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Is it the right decision?

Well, the answer from us is a definite and absolute "yes". The most frustrating thing for any roller coaster fan is going to the park excited to ride and then "RIDE CLOSED" appears on the app. Lightning Rod has certainly been no stranger to downtime since it first opened in 2016.  

With a new "high-speed chain lift", fans will be able to reliably expect Lightning Rod to be open when the park is open and apart from that initial launch element which had to be modified and reduced in length anyway back in 2017, guests are promised that the ride will be the same as it has always been.

The "high-speed chain lift" will take riders over the crest of the first drop at a very similar speed as the launch did so it shouldn't affect the speed you descent the first drop and subsequently travel the remainder of the ride.

Although the initial news from Dollywood that they would remove the launch on Lightning Rod and replace it with a "high-speed chain lift" may have caused disappointment to hardened Lightning Rod fans, when taking a step back, it appears that this decision will only have positives going forward.

Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below or on our Facebook page. With Lightning Rod having gained numerous awards over the years and being a firm fan-favorite, we are really excited to see the reviews of Lightning Rod when it reopens in Spring 2024.

If you want to get a last ride on Lightning Rod at Dollywood, be sure to do it earlier rather than later because as we know there is no guarantee it will be open. It has been officially confirmed that it will definitely be closed from November 1, to begin the necessary modifications. We will keep you posted on developments here at Theme Park Tourist.  


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