Attraction features over 100 hands-on exhibits
WonderWorks officials gathered yesterday with Pigeon Forge officials and financiers for the grand opening ceremony for the city’s newest and perhaps most intriguing attraction yet.
WonderWorks Pigeon Forge Vice President, Sande Weiss welcomed the crowd of hundreds who came for the attraction’s ribbon cutting.
Louise Mandrell also addressed the crowd: “This place just puts a big smile on your face so get ready for a good time.”
Weiss also recognized philanthropists and project financiers Margit and Earl Worsham. “They had enough vision to invest a great deal of money, the largest portion as a matter of fact, into this building,” Weiss said.
“If you want to describe to your friends what WonderWorks is, it’s an amusement park for the mind,” said John Morgan, an owner of WonderWorks. “Everything you see in here we have found in science centers around the world, and we have themed it for the public’s entertainment,” he said.
Morgan also promised the crowd that special days would be set aside to assure that all students, even those who can not afford admission, would have the opportunity to visit the attraction. “We’re going to make sure that every child in Tennessee has the chance to see WonderWorks,” Morgan said.
WonderWorks is the brainchild of owner Robin Turner, who founded Attraction Concepts, Ltd. to create the original WonderWorks in Orlando in 1998. “We are thrilled to bring the unique WonderWorks experience to East Tennessee,” said Turner, whose love of the Smoky Mountains prompted him to move to Gatlinburg last year.
“Pigeon Forge is a great location with nearly 12 million tourists traveling to the area each year. It’s a wonderful place for family fun,” said Turner. In addition to Pigeon Forge, Attraction Concepts, Ltd. is planning to expand its WonderWorks concept to New York City and Anaheim, Calif.
Guests arriving at the nearly 55,000-square-foot facility will know they’re in store for something different. The interactive science museum’s 82-foot-tall façade, part of a $9 million renovation project, makes it appear as if one building – the mysterious WonderWorks Institute – has crash-landed upside down atop a 1930’s-era brick warehouse.
The attraction features more than 100 hands-on exhibits that are arranged throughout a variety of themed rooms. In the Disaster Zone, for example, simulators help guests experience an earthquake or go head to head with hurricane-force winds. In the Space Zone, they can land a space shuttle orbiter or view a 3-D movie. The Lights and Sound room features a variety of optical effects plus a giant keyboard that’s played by hopping from key to key like Tom Hanks in the movie “Big.”
Other activities include a realistic, simulated weather station and the Risk Zone where guests can test chance, probability and odds. There are several virtual reality exhibits such as Virtual Hoops, a basketball game where guests can become completely immersed in a computer-generated 3-D world. Also inside is a small theatre showing a video detailing the science behind some of the wonders of the world and the Illusion Gallery, where nothing is really as it appears. On the upper level of the attraction, guests will find a laser tag area and a large video arcade.
Along with the most interactive exhibits in East Tennessee, the attraction will feature a 300-seat dinner theatre. Scripting and casting for an original production are underway and Weiss expects the show to make its debut in July.