Tennessee’s Rowdy Bear Ridge opens Wiegand’s interactive CoasterKart

AT: Pam Sherborne

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — A new coaster concept by German manufacturer Wiegand GmbH & Co. KG called CoasterKarts is now up and running at Rowdy Bear Ridge Adventure Park in this popular destination city. 

This is Wiegand’s first installation of the interactive attraction in North America. Based on the first-day rider response on March 13, the ride is already a hit. 

“Everyone really seems to like it,” said Mark Williford, park owner. “When you start out at the station, you really feel like you are driving it.”

The reason for this is due to the fact that riders on CoasterKart do have some speed control. Williford’s cars have a hand throttle used much like a throttle on a motorcycle. So with a twist of the wrist, the karts throttle up. 

Each car seats two riders side by side. Williford purchased a total of 12 cars, but said he will most likely run 10 at any one time. 

While the company recommends a length of at least 1,640 feet, Rowdy Bear boasts a track 2,500 feet long.

Jessica Wedel, sales and project manager, Wiegand North America, said the maximum speed is about 25 mph. Speeds can be pre-set. For example, Williford said the opertaor can set a minimum as well as a maximum and can set curve speeds. The speed boost works with a linear inductor motor, the same concept Wiegand has used in its Alpine Coaster. 

Rowdy Bear’s CoasterKart includes a tunnel and water features, and it twists and turns around existing rides.

Williford said he is finding that the ride is appealing to a wide demographic. He also said because riders have some speed control, “riders want to ride over and over again.”

And, of course that is fine with him. 

“There is a lot of interest,” Williford said. 

The CoasterKart at Rowdy Bear can be seen from the major parkway and thoroughfare between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. During busy times, the bumper-to-bumper traffic will allow passersby to have ample time to see the ride. Williford got a taste of that over the March 12-13 weekend. 

On the company’s side, Wedel said there has been quite a bit of interest as well.

“We have lots of CoasterKart’s in the works but nothing definite yet,” she said. 

Wiegand officials feel they definitely have a hit with the CoasterKart. The advantages to the ride abound. For example, the track can be added to existing terrain or to a specially designed area. It can reach heights of 16 feet without any foundation needs. This means that the system is both simple to install and environmentally friendly. 

The company touts the ride as being very low maintenance and only requires two operating staff. There are no height requirements making it a very family-friendly ride and it can be operated year-round independent of weather conditions.

In addition, it can be installed indoors or outdoors, making it a great choice for malls and family entertainment centers. 

Design options include roads, slopes and paths, overpasses and underpasses, curves, gyroscopic construction, jumps, waves, thematization and photo points.

There also are different variations of the speed control mechanisms. Williford chose to use the hand throttle for his cars, but they can be equipped with a lever on the handle bar or a foot pedal.

Wiegand announced last September that the Pigeon Forge location of Rowdy Bear was to get the CoasterKart. Original plans were to have it completed by late fall 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed construction. 

Williford owns another location of Rowdy Bear in Gatlinburg, Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster Amusement Park. There, he has a  Wiegand Alpine Coaster, one of 270 successful global installations of that type of attraction.

Unlike the mountain coaster, the CoasterKart is an entirely powered ride system with electrical bars installed into the track to power the motor on the karts. The track is also wider on the CoasterKart. 


This article will appear in the forthcoming  APRIL 2021 issue of Amusement Today
which will publish on March 25, 2021.
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