Joel Manby to Leave HFEC for SeaWorld CEO Job

The CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment (HFEC), Joel Manby, will depart the company to assume the same position at Seaworld Entertainment Inc.  on April 7. An official bio of Joel Manby and more information is available here.

Joel Manby took over operations of HFEC in 2003, while the chain was about to open Celebration City. Manby ultimately pulled the plug on Celebration city after an up-and-down 5-year run, but during his tenure as CEO HFEC’s properties increased from 6 to 26 and the company’s revenue more than doubled. Manby is highly celebrated for his character and success in his endeavors, and was featured on the show Undercover Boss back in 2010.

Manby is not the first CEO from outside the Herschend family itself, but he has undoubtedly been the most successful. One thing is certainly significant about the way Manby managed the company: he met regularly with members of the Herschend family and was supported in earnest by Jack and Pete Herschend. Last year Forbes published a special article detailing the relationship between Manby and the Herschend family, among other interesting aspects of the business, which can be found here.

Replacing Manby will be no easy task. HFEC has grown significantly in a short amount of time, and that growth is not set to stop anytime soon. The company is in the midst of investing a whopping $300 million into Dollywood in Tennessee in order to turn it into a national destination. The chain has also played at potentially purchasing more parks in the recent past, such as Darien Lake in New York. Additionally, company has also recently been rapidly branching out into aquariums, resorts, and special attractions such as the Harlem Globetrotters.

With all this momentous growth, there is no denying that choosing the right CEO to take up the reins will be absolutely critical for HFEC.

Herschend Family Entertainment to Help Fill Record-Setting 500,000 Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child

Next week, the many properties operated by Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation (HFEC) will join forces to help fill a record 500,000 shoeboxes with gifts to be sent around the world to needy children. The effort is part of Operation Christmas Child, a massive annual undertaking led by the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. The project will affect more than 10 million children in over 100 countries.

HFEC properties are trying to energize their local communities to contribute towards the cause by offering complimentary tickets to the company’s attractions to churches around the country. Joel Manby states that he expects more than 2,000 churches to take part in the cause. This is a yearly initiative by the company. Last year HFEC properties and surrounding communities fulfilled over 300,000 boxes.

Next week, November 17-24 is the collection week for Operation Christmas Child. If you want to contribute yourself, the process for packing a shoebox is pretty simple. Just fill a shoebox with an appropriate slew of school supplies, toys, necessity items, candy and a letter of encouragement. You can find one of the 4,000 collection sites plus step-by-step shoebox packing instructions here.

See more information in this press release.

Wild Adventures to Get Flying Carpet Ride

Wild Adventures, the third theme park in the Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation portfolio after Silver Dollar City and Dollywood, made an announcement today concerning a $1 million ride addition for the 2015 season. The new ride is dubbed “Jungle Rumble” and appears to be a flying carpet style ride. The website pitch markets it thusly:

Swing, swoop, climb and drop!  You’ll feel like a monkey swinging through the trees with screaming views from four stories high!  Opens March 2015.

Since HFEC already owns a dormant flying carpet ride at the defunct Celebration City in Branson, MO, we naturally assume that this is the same ride. Wild Adventures is already home to several other former Celebration City rides, including the Jack Rabbit coaster (now called Viking Voyage), and CC’s old scrambler.

Wild Adventures also had a couple other announcements to make today concerning 2015, including a new concert lineup that includes Jennifer Nettles and Foreigner. Season passes are now on sale at their lowest rates, so don’t hesitate to jump on this deal.

Get more info here on WA’s official site.

Dollywood Tops Off Resort, Hints at Another Major Announcement

Earlier this week Dollywood reached a milestone in the construction of its new DreamMore Resort by topping the structure off with a massive spire that was lifted into place. The DreamMore Resort will open next season as part of DW’s intensive $300 million make-over into a national resort attraction. The resort is the first resort to be constructed by HFEC at one of the companies several theme parks. It includes 307 rooms, a salon and spa, and a restaurant among other typical resort amenities.

While watching HFEC and Dollywood take this massive step forward as a company has been extremely exciting, there’s still hundreds of millions of dollars in the pipeline to be invested into the Dollywood property over the next 8 or so years. The park is already hinting at the next big announcement, which will be made next year:

(From Times News: )

The hotel will open next year, as Dollywood celebrates its 30th season — and there will be more big news, Ross said.

“We’re very busy behind closed doors,” Ross said. “To plan what we will announce next year as one of the biggest single attraction additions in our 30-year history for 2016. I can’t share details, but can tell you plans are underway.”


Check out more details in this recent news report.


So what could Dollywood be planning? The possibilities are endless. Just two years ago Dollywood opened a massive $20 million roller coaster known as Wild Eagle. Anything that qualifies as one of the largest single attraction additions in Dollywood history will be a significant development in the world of park attractions. While many will immediately assume that the park is planning another huge roller coaster, there are plenty of other possibilities on the table, particularly for a park that is attempting to throw itself into the national spotlight. A few months ago the LA Times noted that many larger parks are starting to move towards combining roller coaster systems with dark ride style elements to create unique immerisve experiences. HFEC is way ahead of the game in this regard, having created some of the first examples of this ride style with the 1972 Fire In The Hole! roller coaster at Silver Dollar City, followed by the extremely similar Blazing Fury at Dollywood in 1978. The possibilites don’t end at dark rides and roller coasters however, as the innovations of theme park technology in the 21st century have created endless ways to spend $20 million on a single attraction.

We’ll be tracking the development of this project and the rest of Dollywood’s exciting growth. Check out our Dollywood sub-forum here, and let us know what you think the 2016 attraction will be in this thread.



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