One of our favorite things to cover here at Theme Park University is extinct attractions. There is always something mysterious and nostalgic about long-gone relics from themed entertainment’s past. Opryland may be one of the world’s greatest and unique theme parks we will never see the likes of again. However, thanks to a book I recently received titled Opryland USA – Images of Modern America, you can dive into the history of this beloved park.
Author Stephen W. Phillips has taken great care in chronicling the development of Opryland USA, from conception to construction, to its operating years and beyond. The book has dozens of photos just from Opryland’s concept phase, including photos of models and concept artwork.
Seen above is an illustration created by Randall Duell and Associates, who helped to master planning for many theme parks including Universal Studios Hollywood, Marriott’s Great America, and even MGM Grand Adventure in Las Vegas.
Opryland was built about 10 minutes away from downtown Nashville on a site formerly occupied by a farm. The scale model seen above features The Grand Ole Opry, the driving force behind creating Opryland, even though it wasn’t intended to be ready on opening day. What I love about Opryland USA – Images of Modern America is the amount of archival photos from the park in the book that give you just how much of a piece of Americana it truly was.
For example, the ambassadors of Opryland were the six piece string band characters seen above. From left to right you have Yancy Banjo, Johnny Guitar, Delilah Dulcimer, Johnny Bass, Frankie Fiddle and Jose Mandolin. These characters appeared throughout the park and on collectible merchandise seen over the years.
One of my fondest memories of Opryland was riding Chaos, a groundbreaking indoor roller coaster. Manufactured by Vekoma, this $7 million attraction was the largest investment in the park’s history and still holds the record for longest train with a whopping 40 cars.
Chaos was billed as a “first-of-its-kind thrill-ride hybrid that combined shattering glass, grinding gears, roaring flames, weird man-in-the-moon images, a clock gone haywire and a train gone seemingly out of control all via a 70 mm film.”
Opryland USA – Images of Modern America even chronicles the closing of the park. Seen above, patrons were able to come in and purchase pieces of the park and take part of Opryland home with them.
Stephen W. Phillips penned Opryland USA – Images of Modern America and was a former Gaylord Entertainment executive (Opryland’s parent company). He is considered to be one of the park’s most well-known historians. If you are a fan of theme park history, you must pick order a copy by clicking the link below!
Images reprinted with permission from Images of Modern America Opryland USA, by Stephen W Phillips. Available from the publisher online at www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling (888) 313-2665.