Dollywood Parks & Resorts always seeks to improve the guest experience, taking into consideration your feedback so that the time you spend with us provides your family with enjoyable memories and time spent together. We routinely seek out your thoughts and consider that information as we undertake projects across our properties. Today, I’d like to answer questions specific to guests with mobility challenges. We celebrated the kickoff to our new season with Dollywood Season Passholders on Friday, March 11, but heard from some of our guests who faced unintentional challenges with some of the changes. Because we’re not completely finished with our plans, I want to share the heart behind what we’re working on for you.
The Why Behind Parking Changes
Moving into our 37th season, we committed to redesigning our parking complex in response to guest feedback. In order to resolve traffic flow challenges, extended periods of waiting on trams and a lack of benches for guests to stop to catch their breath as they walk, we reevaluated our space. Our lot is irregular (because of the mountainous terrain upon which Dollywood calls home), and that presents obstacles to many standard parking lot solutions.
Dollywood’s parking complex services millions of visitors every year. By removing four traffic crossover points, the time guests spend in the parking lot will decrease significantly—especially during peak entry and exit times. Waiting for trams (and the tram rides themselves) will be quicker. These improvements will allow everyone to enjoy more Dollywood family time than in previous seasons.
About Parking Lot A
Among the many areas that needed adjustment was Lot A, our ADA parking allocation. Though the lot has been repositioned, it continues to be set aside for our guests with disability permits. Dollywood is proud to offer a surplus of ADA-compliant spaces for our guests. With our new configuration, we exceed the required regulations for our theme park by 336%. Historically, Parking Lot A is full only about 50% of the time, depending on seasons, festivals and events. Yes, we track that.
In addition to the abundance of parking set aside for those with disability permits, we also have ensured that all Dollywood trams are ADA-compliant and that our tram operators are prepared and eager to assist you on every visit. In years past, we allowed parents to park open strollers on the first car of the tram. What we learned is that we weren’t leaving adequate space for folks in wheel chairs and Electric Convenience Vehicles (ECV)s, sometimes unintentionally causing longer wait times to board trams. Now, we require families to fold their strollers and keep them where they sit so the first car is always ready for wheelchair users.
We’re Not Done!
When the off-season is just 67 days long and there are multiple projects occurring simultaneously, the punch list is fairly significant. We prioritize projects and try to wrap up as much as we can before guests come back to the park. In reality, there are still several items that will be completed in the next few weeks. Our Parking Team estimates they will be finished in four to six weeks. In that time, you will see asphalt being repaired, resealed and restriped throughout the parking complex. If you were among the Dollywood Season Passholders to visit on Passholder Preview Day, you may have noticed that not every spot in Parking Lot A was designated for permit parking. We plan to mark every single spot and expand ADA-compliant spots as we finish the work. Other areas you will see improvement is the continued work on the new centralized transit hub. Specifically, the new pick-up and drop-off area that can accommodate more guests than ever before. It is larger, making it easier to navigate than the previous guest drop-off.
Electronic Convenience Vehicles (ECVs) are available for rent. We offer a small allotment for online reservation, but the majority of the ECVs are available at the park. It’s noteworthy to tell you that we did order more in the off-season, so our fleet is larger than last year. With that said, we have heard your concerns and are working on a solution to help families who need additional support getting loved ones from the parking lot to our Rental Services building. We currently pull some out to the entrance plaza to shorten the trip. Once those are all claimed, you will need to enter the park and rent one from Rental Services. We continue to look for solutions to help accommodate our guests. We recommend you arrive at park opening for the best chance to claim an ECV.
It is our desire to serve your family to the best of our ability. We are not finished with some of these outlined projects, but please bear with us as we continue to finalize the parking complex reconstruction project. We are constantly improving because we always want to provide you with the best experience we can!