PIGEON FORGE (MCT) – The new FireChaser Express roller coaster currently under construction at Dollywood will have a low height requirement for young children, but don't call it a kiddie ride.
"The focus is on families. This is a coaster that has a lot of different elements to it, so it's going to be thrilling but thrilling for families," Dollywood Public Relations Director Pete Owens said Monday during a media tour of the site.
Children who are at least 39 inches tall will get a chance to ride the $15 million dual-launch coaster located 12 stories above the theme park's Wilderness Pass area when it makes its debut in seven weeks.
More than 2,400 feet of steel track has already been constructed as workers continue to get the FireChaser Express ready for Dollywood's March 22 opening.
Traveling forward and backward up to 40 miles per hour and with a maximum lift of 79 feet, the coaster is the first attraction piece in a $300 million, 10-year investment that was announced last year. A 300-room resort is slated to open adjacent to the park in the summer of 2015.
The 2 1/2 minute long ride, which has three, 14-passenger trains, launches twice on a track that features two helixes, six zero-gravity moments and a trick track section where passengers twist from side to side.
The last 40 seconds of the ride is spent in reverse.
"The bends and the twists are going to make it a very exciting ride," Owens said. "This is a great addition to what really has become an adrenaline zone for the park. It really does add that cherry on top to what has become a thrill zone."
FireChaser Express is situated across from Wild Eagle, a high-thrill steel wing coaster that was the centerpiece of a $20 million Dollywood expansion in 2012.
The Wilderness Pass area of the theme park begins with Thunderhead, a wood coaster built in 2004.
It is adjacent to Mystery Mine, a story coaster with a vertical lift and a vertical drop inside a 19th century haunted mining operation.
Dollywood later added the family water raft ride, River Battle.
The area also includes SkyZip, a zip line attraction.
"We're really pleased to be able to build something the entire family can enjoy," Owens said.
Located on the former Adventure Mountain site, the FireChaser Express concept is set in the 1940s and honors the volunteer fire brigades around the Smoky Mountains that kept an eye on what became the national park.
It follows the story of Fire Chief Pete Embers and Crazy Charlie, who likes to experiment with fireworks at his roadside stand.
The ride, which covers an entire hillside and extends over to an area closest to the Tennessee Tornado roller coaster, launches out of the main fire station and takes guests through fire towers and around such obstacles as fallen telephone poles and crashed rockets.
During the excursion, riders are taken inside Crazy Charlie's Gas and Fireworks Emporium, where riders will be greeted with "a rather explosive interaction with one of his inventions."
"Riders are asked to be a volunteer recruit and keep an eye out for fire," Owens said. "The story line here is anyone can be a hero, even kids as young as 4."