A theme park will open the first American attraction at the gates of the Smokies

Knoxville, Tenn. (AP) – In its quest to redefine tourism on the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has signed an agreement to bring an international entertainment company to the United States for the first time.

The Tribal Council and international theme park company Puy du Fou have signed a letter of intent to develop a new “spectacular immersive show” as part of a 200-acre development located off exit 407 south of the Interstate 40 on Smokies Road.

The Tribal Council approved $75 million on May 4 for the development of the first phase of “The 407: Gateway to Adventure.” Its leaders are looking for world-class attractions to attract the record crowds that are flocking to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

The 407 partners estimated that the development could attract 6.7 million visitors in the first year following the completion of the first phase. It is planned for 2024.

“We are excited to take the first steps towards developing this world-class attraction that will help sustain our country economically while creating a new platform to share dimensions of Cherokee history that many have never heard” said Tribal Council Chairman Richard French.

Puy du Fou is world famous for its immersive experiences inspired by history. France’s flagship park attracts more than 2.3 million visitors each year, according to a statement. It offers live entertainment, vintage villages, and on-site resorts.

The United States is the company’s next frontier for expansion.

Puy du Fou will produce an immersive show inspired by the journeys of the Cherokee Indians who served in the First World War. It is intended to be a “patriotic and moving trip for the whole family”, according to a press release.

“This project in Tennessee developed with EBCI means a lot to us: it will initiate our presence on American soil where there are so many beautiful stories to tell”, declared Nicolas de Villiers, president and artistic director of Puy du Mad. “As lovers of history and cultural roots, we are proud and honored to partner with the EBCI Tribe to achieve this goal.”

Philippe de Villiers, who ran as a nationalist candidate in the 2007 French presidential election, founded the organization in 1978.

TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice named Puy du Fou as the 2nd amusement park in the world in 2020.

407 is owned and operated by Kituwah LLC, a business affiliate of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The 200-acre development will also be anchored by a 74,000-square-foot Buc-ee Travel Center, the company’s largest to date.

The project aims to capitalize on the millions of visitors who visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year. The park broke attendance records last year with over 14 million visitors.

Knoxville-based OE Experiences represents Kituwah and The 407 in its search for world-class entertainment partners for the property. Now that initial funding has been secured, more hotels, restaurants, retail and attractions will be announced later this year, according to a statement.

The tribe also purchased 122 acres on the north side of the highway. He bought the two properties for around $21 million.