For years, Dollywood’s ‘white glove’ team has swept the park before opening—noting everything that was ready for guests and those few things that need a little more polish. Because this effort is about more than ensuring everything is clean, it’s now known as the Operational Readiness team. It’s a wholistic walkthrough to examine every aspect of park operation. With as large as Dollywood is, this comprehensive process takes several days. Dollywood leaders from its many divisions scour the park and test every system from ticketing to simply turning on all the lights.
I caught up with the team as they walked through the park checking each ride attraction. By this point, the Readiness team had already made a few trips through the streets of Dollywood week before—talking with hosts about equipment testing, staffing, training, park conditions, timelines, etc. Their goal is to get Dollywood to the point where it’s as if we never closed.
Leaders at each location chat with the team. They discuss equipment functionality after winter repairs, cleanliness and upgrades/improvements from last season. As discussed in this Dollywood Insider blog, every single ride goes through third party testing in the off-season. Operational Readiness members follow up on the current status of each attraction and how ride training and operating is going with new hosts. Nearly every challenge/to-do has already been addressed by the time Operational Readiness comes knocking, but they’re there to provide additional support. Priorities are immediately noted and entered into our work order system. Appropriate teams are deployed right away to ensure the outstanding items are checked off the list.
From opening day to the last day of the season, we want to get it right. This team takes similar operational tours throughout the year because we want to deliver the best guest experience possible. As a matter of fact, of all the accolades Dollywood has been awarded, I’m going to venture out to say we’re proudest of the title Friendliest Park (Golden Ticket Awards 2012-2018) which combined with another category (Cleanest Park) to create the new award Best Guest Experience in 2019. (Read more about Golden Ticket Awards here.) We were delighted theme park goers voted us the winner of the inaugural year for Best Guest Experience. I can tell you our teams work hard for that recognition. It doesn’t happen by chance.