Roller coaster experts say Fire in the Hole great Silver Dollar City success

Roller coaster experts say Fire in the Hole great Silver Dollar City success

Robb Alvey lives in Orlando, grew up in Southern California — when he was in high school, he worked at Disneyland — and has visited theme parks in Japan, China, Australia, South America and all over Europe.

So what made him bring his wife, Elissa, to Branson, Mo., on March 27?

Silver Dollar City staff, some in character, welcome guests on Wednesday March 27 2024 to the Fire in the Hole indoor roller coaster preview. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

Alvey is the founder of Theme Park Review, a website and social media account where he’s documented his rides on more than 1,400 roller coasters around the world. He wanted to be one of the VIPs who were the first to ride Silver Dollar City’s new incarnation of Fire in the Hole — and he was in no way disappointed.

“My first ride on Fire in the Hole must have been about 25 years ago,” he says. “I loved the original attraction, as you could tell it was very much ‘hand made’ and had a unique feel to it that many modern dark rides/indoor roller coasters just don’t have.”

That said, “we LOVED the new attraction,” Alvey affirms. “Usually when a park updates an older ride, they end up removing a lot of the charm that made the original version so special. But in the case of Fire in the Hole, every unique element that you would want from the original ride has been faithfully re-created and made every better by having a smoother, more reliable ride as well as updated technology for the show scenes.”

“Fire In The Hole is truly one of a kind,” agrees Duane Marden, founder of the Roller Coaster Database, a worldwide database with statistics on more than 10,000 roller coasters and counting. “The ride combines a family coaster experience with indoor elements illustrating the history of this area, all in a massive building that ends with a water splash. There’s nothing like it anywhere, and [it] will be an absolute must-ride every visit.”

FIRE IN THE HOLE Guests at Silver Dollar City near Branson get seated on Wednesday March 27 2024 to ride the new Fire in the Hole indoor roller coaster at the 1880s theme park. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

After telling fans in March 2023 that it would be the last year for the iconic roller coaster, Silver Dollar City spokesmen revealed at a news conference Aug. 14 that Fire in the Hole would be replaced with — a new Fire in the Hole. The $30 million ride, created in collaboration with Idaho’s Rocky Mountain Construction and Herschend Creative Studios, marks the Branson theme park’s biggest investment in a single attraction to date.

The new coaster offers:

 Three drops.

 A splash landing.

 Updated special effects for 14 “iconic” show scenes.

 A custom soundtrack with high-resolution onboard audio.

 New lighting effects.

 A 2-minute, 51-second ride along 1,512 feet of track at a maximum speed of 26 mph.

And it’s all inside a five-story, temperature-controlled building, meaning the new family coaster will be open regardless of weather and temperature, park spokesman Dalton Fischer says.

Plus, Fire In The Hole is the new centerpiece of the Fire District, effectively doubling the size of one the park’s most popular areas, according to Fischer. The new section also includes Sadie’s Pretzel Cafe, a new restaurant serving handmade pretzels, pretzel dogs and pretzel sandwiches, and the new Flanders Dry Goods store, which offers a line of “Flanders-branded” merchandise, connecting the store location back to Fire In The Hole’s lore.

“Moving the attraction into an area of the park that already is themed to celebrate fire fighters also made so much sense,” says Alvey. “Just the setting alone improves the overall feel of the attraction.”

The premise of the ride is that “volunteers” are asked to board their very own “pumpers” to help save a burning town from a gang of vigilantes called The Baldknobbers. Fischer says that, true to the theme park’s 1880s roots, the new coaster recounts the story of a real night in Ozark Mountain history when the mining town of Marmaros — the once-real town that inspired the Silver Dollar City theme — was burned to the ground.

Favorite story points are incorporated into the newly opened reincarnation of Fire in the Hole at Silver Dollar City. (Courtesy Image/SDC)

More than 25 million riders boarded Fire in the Hole between 1972 and its final day on Dec. 30, 2023, Fischer says. It officially opened to the public March 30 with more than 12,000 people visiting the park.

“The ride itself is a wonderful mix of classic ‘dark ride’ moments, those storytelling rides that give you a sense of character, charm and a little bit of thrill at the end,” Alvey describes. “But it’s not too thrilling,” he adds, saying people of all ages could enjoy it.

“I would say it’s less of a roller coaster and more of an adventurous dark ride,” he goes on. “For those of you who have ridden Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney parks, this is similar in look, feel and thrill. Riders who are experiencing the attraction for the first time will still get the same look and feel of the ride as those who experienced it in 1972. It truly is one of the best ‘updates’ to any attraction we’ve seen anywhere in the world.

“Roller coasters and theme park attractions are never meant to last ‘forever,’” Alvey adds. “So it was nice to see Silver Dollar City take that original ride and keep the update as close to the original as possible.”

The craftsmanship of the Fire in the Hole creative team “can be seen in every nook of this ride, from the queue line and coaster building, all the way to the hand-painted backdrops,” says Brad Thomas, president of the Silver Dollar City Company.

“Fire In The Hole is a testament to the hard work and ingenuity of the men and women who work here at Silver Dollar City,” says Brad Thomas, president of the Silver Dollar City Company. “Work on this massive addition started back in 2021, with planning much before that. They have poured tens of thousands of hours into this project, and their craftsmanship can be seen in every nook of this ride, from the queue line and coaster building, all the way to the hand-painted backdrops.

“This new Fire In The Hole continues our mission of creating memories worth repeating,” he adds. “The only place you can ride something like this is Silver Dollar City.”



Silver Dollar City

Seasonal Events

In addition to its rides and shows, Silver Dollar City is known for its festivals. Scheduled this year are:

April 11-19 — Street Fest: With Kristy Sellars Imaginarium, the Living Garden, the Amazing Anastasini Circus and the new Pompon Parade.

May 2-27 — Bluegrass & BBQ Festival: With Nick Chandler & Delivered, Lori King & Junction 63, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys and more.

June 8-Aug. 4 — Summer Celebration: With the Newsboys in concert June 15.

July 13-Aug. 4 — Summer Nights: Open late.

Aug. 22-Sept. 2 — Southern Gospel Picnic.

Sept. 6-8 — Country Music Days.

Sept. 13-Oct. 26 — Harvest Festival.

Nov. 2-Dec. 30 — An Old Time Christmas.

One-day tickets start at $89 at

Categories: Cover Story