Successful South Florida business owners, Bob and Karen Bentz, are taking on their most ambitious project yet; designing, building and operating Gatlinburg Tennessee’s newest attraction, Anakeesta, a unique outdoor mountain experience scheduled to open this summer.
The Bentzes have started and grown two successful businesses in South Florida, Land Design South (now WGI Land Design Services), a premier Landscape Architecture and Land Planning Firm whose work includes University Park and Broken Sound Club and Atlantic Land Companies, based in West Palm Beach, which provides real estate development services. They also own and operate The Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs, Florida whose Golden Spoon award-winning menu has inspired some of the menu items at Anakeesta.
While they’ve spent the last thirty years in South Florida, their newest venture takes them back to their college days. Bob and Karen met at the University of Tennessee and served as park rangers together for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in East Tennessee.
“This is a legacy project. We have always loved the Smoky Mountains and Anakeesta Mountain in particular where we’ve had a cabin for more than 30 years now. We want to share the beauty of the 70 acre Anakeesta property with the world and let others experience the same sense of wonder we feel when we’re here,” said Bob Bentz.
The $30 million attraction, scheduled to open this summer, begins with a scenic 12-minute ride from Downtown Gatlinburg to the summit of Anakeesta mountain on a one-of-a-kind Chondola . The Chondola give riders the option between a quad chairlift or enclosed 6 person gondola cabin. The ride ends at Firefly Village, a whimsical treehouse-themed village that features local craftsmen, retail and casual dining options.
From there guests can stroll through a scenic treetop canopy walk more than 40 feet in the air, soar through the trees on Gatlinburg’s fastest dual-racing zip lines, fly through the forest on a high-speed mountain coaster, climb through a tree house playground, hike the trails or sit back and enjoy the views of the National Park.
“We would never be able to take on a project of this magnitude if it weren’t for the incredible experience we gained working and growing our companies in Florida,” said Karen Bentz. “This is the culmination of a very fulfilling career for us and we can’t wait to share it.”