Ghost town rendering

This image accompanied a news release from Storyland Studios concerning a recent contract to design Ghost Town.

MAGGIE VALLEY — 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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