Intimidator at Carowinds - Aerial View

Could Carowinds' $50 Million Investment Make it the 'Cedar Point of the South'?

Cedar Fair announced plans for a multi-year $50 million investment of Charlotte, NC park Carowinds that will include new rides, restaurants, and infrastructure upgrades. While Carowinds already boasts 13 roller coasters, we may start seeing what was meant by the “Cedar Point of the South” statement mentioned at an enthusiast event years ago.

Here’s a statement from Cedar Fair’s press release:

“Over the next three years we intend to make several significant investments in both the amusement and water park areas, including new rides and attractions, new and upgraded food locations, and general infrastructure improvements. We plan to expand the capacity of Carowinds in all areas to appropriately serve its market and provide our guests with a ‘Best Day of Summer’ experience each and every time they visit our park.” – Cedar Fair Press Release

While I didn’t expect this news, it does align with a comment from a Carowinds employee about Cedar Fair identifying Charlotte as a “growth market” at the Carolina Cobra Media Day. As we can see here, “growth market” can equate to plans for large future investments. That comment came before Intimidator, so I was thinking that the 2010 roller coaster was what was meant, but it looks like that ride was just the only thing in store.

It looks like my move to the area was good for both my day job and my hobby. Since I moved to the Queen City in 2007, I’ve seen: expansion of Boomerang Bay (2008), Carolina Cobra (2009), a 232-foot tall hyper coaster in Intimidator (2010), Snoopy Starlight Spectacular (2011), Windseeker (2012), and Dinosaurs Alive! (2013).

Infrastructure Possibilities

Speculation is at a fever pitch as it’s not every day that amusement park operators announce multi-year investments and use words like “expand the capacity”. I’ll give a general sense of the infrastructure ideas that are floating around on CarowindsConnection and on Screamscape:
A new main gate and expanded entrance area, expansion of the water park, the moving or shifting of the parking lot, closure or re-purposing of the South Gate (where Afterburn is located), using the existing parking lot for expansion, and even tearing down the Paladium amphitheater to make room for expansion.

Intimidator at Carowinds - Aerial View

There have been survey markers around the front entrance/parking lot area this summer. So, we may see the new main gate first, but that’s just a guess. The area just past the main gate is pretty small and cramped. I like the idea of a dedicated water park entrance and I also like the idea of turning the South Gate into the main gate after some upgrades and expansion of it. You’d have Intimidator roaring by nearby and you’d get to walk over Afterburn’s buried batwing inversion. It’s no Gatekeeper, but still a cool way to welcome you into the park (although a bit uphill).

New Rides and Roller Coasters at Carowinds

The investment announcement doesn’t speak specifically about any new rides, but this comment has enthusiasts very curious:

The continued growth in the Charlotte market presents a unique opportunity for our Carowinds amusement park, which we believe is ready for record-breaking attractions,” said Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair’s Chief Operating Officer. – Cedar Fair Press Release

“Record-breaking” sounds encouraging, but while our minds may think “roller coaster”, this could mean almost any kind of attraction. A rumor Lance describes as “wild” involves a wing coaster for 2015. Could Cedar Fair be planning on literally building another wing coaster-new main gate experience as they did for Cedar Point?

A launched roller coaster makes sense as it’s one of the few roller coaster types we’re missing. After a launch coaster, my top choice would actually be a water roller coaster. They aren’t very common and would be much appreciated in this hot climate. Enthusiasts have been asking for more flat rides for years too. I like the idea that I read on Carowinds Connection about the mega disk-o shaped like a tire in the field next to NASCAR-themed Intimidator.

Carowinds: “The Cedar Point of the South”?

Finally, while I haven’t found an exact quote, here’s a discussion about the “Cedar Point of the South” comment that’s been making the rounds for years on CoasterBuzz.

Obviously, I don’t think Carowinds will become magically become Cedar Point in 2016, but the coming years may bring Cedar Fair’s attempts to have a major regional theme park in an area where many Americans have been and continue to migrate. Also, in 2011, Cedar Fair purchased 61 acres adjacent to Carowinds and there have been rumors of a possible resort for years.

What’s your take? What would like to see at Carowinds? What does the park need most? Here’s the full coaster lineup at RCDB. And here’s the Carowinds’ wikipedia page for a quick rundown of all of its attractions.