By Chris Cowan
Most of the information within this timeline was
obtained from the Carowinds home page:
1956 – E. Pat Hall, an
industrial developer from Charlotte, North Carolina, visits Disneyland and
decides the Carolinas need something similar.
1969 – In October, 1969,
Mr. Hall announces his plan to build a $250 million resort area and
amusement park to straddle the border of North and South Carolina near
- Planning begins. The project is envisioned as
o Phase One is to include the amusement park, a 50-acre
parking area and a 40-acre campground with 400 camping spaces.
o Phase Two consists of a resort hotel connected to the
amusement park via a monorail system, a 900-acre industrial park, and
several smaller motels located around the property.
o Phase Three, to be developed away from the amusement park
on property near Lake Wylie, South Carolina, would include a resort and
residential area with a marina, yacht club and a golf course.
- Also considered was a 75,000-seat domed
football stadium with the 50-yard line on the state line.
- Total development would encompass 2,900 acres.
Unfortunately, only Phase One would ever be completed.
- Planning continues for the amusement park.
- The blueprints are revised seven times before
the layout of the park is finalized.
- Construction of Phase One begins, including the
monorail, which is to circle the grounds and will eventually include a
stop at the Phase Two hotel (which never happens). The park is
scheduled to open on June 1, 1972.
1972 – Weather and
construction delays force the park’s opening to be rescheduled for 1973.
developed on 73 acres at a cost of $27 million, opens on March 31, 1973. The
name is a combination of “Carolinas” and the “winds” that blew across the
two states. A replica of a southern mansion serves as the park’s entryway. Just inside the gates
is the “Courtyard of the Carolinas” with the state
line running directly down the center.
- The park consists of seven themed areas:
o Plantation Square
(designed to resemble small Carolina towns of the 19th century), which
includes a double-decker carousel, a trolley, the 320-foot Skytower and the
Sternwheeler, a riverboat that takes passengers around a man-made lagoon.
o Queen’s Colony
(representing British colonial influence in the Carolinas). Rides in this
area were the Powder Keg Flume (log ride) and Oaken Bucket.
o Country Crossroads (a
replica of a typical Carolina farming community with a working farm and real
crops). Guests in this section can ride a tractor, a live mule on the
Mule-Go-Round, the Shortline miniature railroad and the Hillbilly Jalopies.
o Indian Thicket (an Indian
village), which includes the Witch Doctor and War Canoes rides.
o Pirate Island (a coastal
town during the days of pirates). The Flying Dutchman and the
o Frontier Outpost (set in
the days of pioneer settlers) is the home of the Goldrusher, a mine train
o Contemporary Carolinas
(depicting the Carolinas of the current day) in which guests can ride on
the Speedway (mini cars), the Kaleidoscope and the monorail.
- An eighth theme area representing the nuclear and space age
planned, but never built.
- At opening, the park also features a train ride with stops in
Square, Country Crossroads and Frontier Outpost, and the
Cable Skyway which
takes guests between Queen’s Colony and Frontier Outpost on 4-person cable
- Carowinds’ first season attendance is 1.23 million.
- Picnic pavilions,
an expanded bus lot (which will hold 400 buses), the Stagecoach lounge with
a 144-seat restaurant and two new food locations are added.
double-decker carousel is removed.
- Attendance fell this year to below 1
- On January 19th,
Family Leisure Centers, a company formed by partners Taft Broadcasting
(owners of Kings Island and the soon to open Kings Dominion) and
Enterprises (a subsidiary of Kroger), purchase Carowinds for $16 million.
The deal also includes an option for 85 additional acres surrounding the
park for $2.4 million, but does not include any of the land which was to be
used for Phase Two or Three.
- The new owners immediately spend $2 million to
expand and renovate the park.
- "The Happy Land of Hanna Barbera" is added,
featuring 6 children’s rides, including the Scooby Doo roller coaster and
the relocated Shortline railroad.
- Two new rides, the Wagon Wheel and the
Waltzer, are added.
- New games and a candy shop are added.
- The Paladium, a 7000-seat open air
concert venue, is added.
- Most food and merchandise areas are remodeled.
- Thunder Road, a
racing wooden roller coaster, is added in the area behind Country
Crossroads. The name is taken from a movie about moonshiners in the Carolina
mountains. The local ATF office donates two moonshine stills which are
placed at the entrance and exit of the ride.
- The Surfer and the Waltzer are removed at the end
of the season.
- Attendance increases this year
to just below 1 million.
- White Lightnin’, a steel shuttle loop
coaster, is added.
- The Witch Doctor is renamed Black Widow
and moved to the location vacated by the Surfer.
- Attendance for the year rises 16% and finishes
over 1 million for the first time since the park’s inaugural season.
- No new rides are added.
- The size of the
parking lot is increased.
- A second entrance to the park is added.
- The Paladium is expanded to 9000 seats.
- Thunder Road gets two new trains to
replace the originals.
- County Fair, a new
theme section, is added in the area around Thunder Road.
- Four new rides are
added in County Fair:
o Demolition Derby (bumper cars),
Dervish (swings) and
o Wild Bull.
- An antique carousel is added to Hanna Barbera Land.
- The Carolina Cyclone (steel roller
coaster) is added. It is the first coaster with 4 inversions.
- In October, Family Leisure Centers is
dissolved and Taft Broadcasting becomes the sole owner of the park.
– No new rides
- Rip Roarin’ Rapids is
added on five acres near the Paladium.
- A local company arranges to build the
Ocean Island wave pool on ten acres of land owned by the park between
Thunder Road and White Lightnin’. Carowinds is hired to operate the pool but
a separate admission is charged.
- Café Italiano, a 256-seat restaurant is
No new rides
Improvements are made to Rip Roarin’ Rapids.
This is the first year
for Winterfest, the park’s Christmas festival.
At the end of the year,
Taft’s park general managers and several vice presidents purchase two-thirds
of Taft’s interest in the amusement park business and form their own
corporation, King’s Entertainment Company (KECO).
- Admission this year is $11.95.
1984 – KECO kicks off
its first season of ownership by adding Smurf Island, a 1.3 acre
1985 – Blackbeard’s
Revenge is added.
- Frenzoid, a looping ship, is added to the
County Fair section.
- A 17,000-square-foot lake and 145 shade trees
are also added to County Fair.
- Carowinds 15th
season sees the addition of three rides to Hanna Barbera Land:
o Bamm Bamm’s
o Boo Boo’s Balloon Race, and
o Elroy’s Skychase.
- An infant care facility is added.
- The park buys the Ocean Island wave
- White Water Falls
(a shoot-the-chutes ride) and Cinema 180 Theatre are added.
- White Lightnin’
is removed at the end of the season.
- Riptide Reef, the
country’s first full water park within a theme park, is added. Ocean Island
wave pool is renamed Big Wave Bay and is now included with a Carowinds
admission, along with the new Carolina Pipeline, Racing Rivers and
children’s water play area.
- The Paladium gets a new 3080-square-foot stage
and seating is increased to 9,200.
- The park now encompasses 83 acres.
- The Gauntlet is added.
- The Blue Ridge Dining Hall is renovated
and renamed Casey’s Grill.
- Admission this year is $18.95.
1991 – The Paladium
Amphitheater is renovated again, this time bringing the seating to 13,000. Individual stadium style seating replaces the bleachers and the front 5000
seats are covered with a steel roof. An entrance plaza is built, separating
the Paladium from the park.
- The Vortex (stand-up steel roller
coaster) is added.
- Paramount purchases Kings
Entertainment Company on July 31st.
- The park
is renamed Paramount’s Carowinds.
- Days of Thunder (motion simulator) is
added in the County Fair area.
- Midway Music Hall is renovated and
renamed Paramount Theatre.
1994 – Wayne’s World, a
new theme area is added. It features The Hurler (wooden roller coaster),
the Rock Shop (Rock N Roll merchandise) and Stan Mikita’s (a restaurant),
along with several new games. The eight acre addition expands the park to 91
- Hanna Barbera Land
is renovated and renamed Animation Station. New attractions added in
Animation Station are:
o The Power Station (a three story climbing and play
o Low Voltage Center (a smaller version of the Power Station for
o The Cartoon Walk of Fame and
o Kid’s Studio (an 865-seat
- In April, one train on Thunder Run is turned backwards.
July, the 172-foot Xtreme Skyflyer (upcharge attraction) opens in the
Wayne’s World area.
1996 – The 174-foot
Zone Stunt Tower is added in the Wayne’s World section.
- For Carowinds' 25th
season, the water park doubles in size to 12 acres, is renamed Water Works,
and has five new attractions added:
o Two children’s areas (Splash
Factory, a 3 story water play area, and Squirt Works, for infants and
o 2 new water slides (Tidal Wave and Wipeout), and
o Carolinas' Ramblin’ River (lazy river).
- The Carolina Pipeline water slide is enclosed
and renamed The Abyss.
- The park is now 97 acres.
- Animation Station is expanded with
Zoom Zone, a 3.5 acre area which includes three new rides:
o Taxi Jam (miniature steel roller coaster),
o Road Rally (electric cars) and
o Chopper Chase (helicopter cars on a monorail).
- This addition brings the park to 100 acres.
- Days of Thunder is renamed Paramount
Action F/X Theatre and James Bond: License to Thrill is the new
motion simulator film.
Top Gun: The Jet Coaster (B&M steel inverted roller coaster) is added
in the Carolina RFD section, at a cost of $10 million.
Attendance this year is 1.9 million.
- The Nickelodeon
Flying Super Saturator is added.
- This year is the inaugural season for Scarowinds, the park’s Halloween event.
- Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion
(interactive dark ride) is added.
- Water Works is expanded with
Pipeline Peak, a complex of four enclosed water slides.
- The Paramount Plaza area is renovated.
- The Blue Ridge Junction area is
renovated and renamed Carolina Boardwalk.
- The size of the park increases to 105 acres.
- Attendance this year is 1.8 million.
- Ricochet (Mack steel wild mouse), the
park’s 11th roller coaster, is added.
- 7th Portal and Meteor Attack
replace James Bond in the Paramount Action F/X Theatre.
- Nickelodeon Central,
a new children's area, is added, featuring:
o Rugrats Runaway Reptar (a junior inverted roller
o The Wild Thornberrys River Adventure (log flume),
o A freefall ride, and
o A cartoon character meeting area.
- The Paramount Action F/X Theatre will also switch to a
SpongeBob SquarePants motion-simulator movie.
- Borg Assimilator (Vekoma Flying Dutchman steel roller
coaster) is added. This coaster was relocated from
Paramount's Great America, where it operated
from 2000 until 2003 as Stealth.
- Five new attractions are added to Nickelodeon
o Phantom Flyers
(Flying Scooters) [relocated from Kings Island]
o Flying Dutchman's Revenge
(mini pirate ships)
o Little Bill's Cruisers
(mini speed boats)
o Dora the Explorer's Azul
Adventure (train ride)
o Nick Live (interactive family
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