8.5 miles. 12 stations. 500 cabins. $160-200 million. These are big numbers for a gondola in a town with barely 10,000 residents. Yet Branson, sometimes known as Nashville West, hosted more than eight million visitors last year. Jeff Green, President of American Gondola, Inc., says that fact combined with worsening traffic congestion make the city a prime candidate for one of the world’s largest gondola systems. “The need for a transportation solution when combined with the possibility of an entertainment attraction creates an opportunity to address both issues using a single system like an aerial gondola,” Green told me by email this week.
The privately-funded system along Highway 76 from Downtown to Silver Dollar City would cost riders $15 per day and be geared towards visitors. American Gondola is working with Leitner-Poma and showed a Sigma Diamond demo cabin at their first public meeting a few weeks ago. I asked Jeff Green about the decision to work with Leitner-Poma at this early stage. “Both [Doppelmayr and Leitner-Poma] have very competitive products and the ability to provide a solution,” he said. “We have found L-P to be extremely knowledgeable and very interested in working with us to address and resolve all the issues and problems and to help us assure a quality product is delivered.”
The system would most likely be constructed with five separate haul rope loops and cabins interlining between them. American Gondola seeks a Memorandum of Understanding with the city this month and hopes to begin construction in 2017. The company has a long way to go but its list of backers is impressive. “Our financial investors have said, that if we could get the MOU next week, they would have our funding in place by the end of the year,” says Green. Of course, that is contingent on achieving final design, obtaining necessary property agreements, easements and permits. Green is optimistic and noted that the demo cabin was already a big hit. “Everyone, including city officials, appreciated the efforts of AGI and Leitner-Poma to provide an example of a cabin they could actually touch and experience.”