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dkst0426

Carowinds concerns

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I'll preface what all I'm about to say by first stating that I used to be a resident in the area. I lived in Mount Holly, and for at least 3 years, I was a Carowinds season pass holder. I enjoyed taking groups of people from church and/or family to visit the park multiple times each summer, and then looked forward to Scarowinds come the fall.

I have since moved to Burlington, and pretty much the only two times I've gone since 2006 have been my annual trip with my 2 nieces, whom I have been taking to Carowinds since 2003. I just returned from this year's edition of the trip, which I had been looking forward to. With the ownership change and all that, I was wondering what was in store.

Suffice to say, I was hugely disappointed. Parking was its usual mess, so that was to be expected. However, I've noticed the parking lot steadily erode over the last couple of years, especially towards the main exit. I guess I just never paid too much attention to that when I was a regular, but now that I'm not, it's a pretty stark realization.

The ticket counter and security checkpoint were fine. I've always appreciated the large space between the ticket counters and going through security, because on really busy days, having too many people in either area would be chaotic.

Ok, on to the three main concerns I had:

1. The rides need help. Not that I wouldn't ride them (I did), but would a fresh coat of paint on them kill the budget that much? And why does Thunder Road seem to be closed far more than it's open? I asked around about that, and the consensus seemed to be that it was the case (keeping in mind that my only frame of reference for that was from others, not my own personal experience). Anyway, some of the older rides like Vortex, Drop Zone, and Cyclone could use some sprucing up. My nieces went back to ride Cyclone a couple of extra times, and as I stood on the walkway between Cyclone and Ricochet, I could see entire sections of the track that had peeling paint. The cars looked beaten/banged up, and the cushions on the ride looked like old car interiors. I know it's primarily aesthetics I'm talking about here, but aesthetics are exactly what a theme park needs to be focusing on.

2. Food prices have gotten ridiculous, even by theme park standards. We ate at the old Stan Mikita's Diner by the Hurler. 4 of us, 4 drinks, 2 cheeseburger baskets, 1 chicken tender basket, and 1 grilled chicken sandwich basket. FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS? Do I really need to say much more?

3. New management, we need a new ride. 4 years after its opening, the lines for the Ride Formerly Known As Borg still stretch more than an hour-hour and a half long. Maybe I'm being too simple, but it just seems to me that more rides = more options = visitors more spread out = shorter lines and wait times.

Will I come back? I'm pretty sure I will, because while I had issues on this visit, it's still the closest theme park in visiting range. I have to admit, though, that this particular visit to Carowinds was quite possibly the most disappointing one that I've ever undertaken. Am I the only one who has noticed these things, and did I just happen to walk in on a bad day?

P.S. On the plus side, I really liked the addition of Bondi Beach. The original Wave pool was getting overrun.

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I just visited the website and I hadn't even noticed that they changed the name of Top Gun to Afterburn and the Borg to the Nighthawk. I guess this is all just because Paramount is no longer the owner? Lame.

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At the other end of the spectrum, I went to Carowinds for the first time this year. Overall, yeah, I wouldn't rate it as highly as most other parks I've been to (but it is comfortably above the nightmare that is Six Flags Georgia). The lines were short enough that we were able to ride pretty much everything that was open. As a Trekkie, I was pretty disappointed that I didn't get to ride the Assimilator, but ultimately it was also the most disappointing roller coaster - surprising given it was by far the longest line of the day.

I completely agree about the food. It was outrageously expensive for really vile food. I couldn't even finish it. It was by far the worst part about Carowinds.

As for parking, my solution was to not. Park that is. We used the CATS Bus 42 connection from the light rail. It drops you off in the RV lot right by the entrance (tell the driver you need the guest entrance stop - don't get off with all the employees at their entrance).

...and keep your timetable dry so you know when to leave *cough*

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My semi-retired parents work at Carowinds in the summer and always get me and the wife season passes. That said, here are some observations:

1) When I asked about the rash of break-ins in the parking lot, they say it is largely due to a large cut in the number of security people.

2) Thunder Road was closed until almost mid-summer to replaces the majority of timber that supports the coaster.

3) Yeah, the food is expensive. If you are thirsty, you can go to any food vender and ask for a free cup of ice water. This helps with cost.

4) The super saturator is gone next year, to be replaced by a new ride. It has had too many mechanical issues. Yeah, once Paramount left the coaster names had to be changed. Also, the former Hanna-Barbara area is now Nickelodeon branded, so the old Scooby Doo coaster is now the Fairy Odd coaster.

5) Insider tip; park at the campground and ride the free tram over to the park. It runs every 30 minutes. Just be discrete about it.

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I went to Carowinds on a Monday a few weeks ago. I have to concur that drinks and food prices were absurd -- as a result we just didn't buy anything. I had no complaints about the rides and really had a great time at all the water park stuff.

I'll also agree that the parking lots look aweful. Actually where I parked would have looked abandoned without people and cars (due to weeds, cracks in pavement, etc)

Great thing about being there on a Monday -- almost no lines for anything.

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I can't say much about the upkeep of the park since I have not gone this year. However, I do have good news and bad news. The bad news is The Flying Super Saturator may be removed from the park. The good news is Carowinds is getting a new coaster for the 2009 season in it's place... well not exactly new but how about used? It will be the ride formally known as "Head Spin" at Geauga Lake which is changing to be just a water park. It's a Vekoma Boomerang coaster.

Facts about Head Spin.

Height: 116 feet

Top Speed: 48 mph

Inversions: 6

Ride Time: 1 min. 48 sec.

Length: 875 feet

Drop: 116 feet

G-Force: 5.2 G's

Trains: 1-28 passenger

The track on this "Boomerang" roller coaster does not form a complete circuit, so therefore the train shuttles both forwards and backward during the ride. Between the two 116-foot lift hills is 875-feet of track that is twisted into three inverting elements - a "boomerang" or cobra roll double inversion and a "vertical loop".

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Having a little knowledge of Cedar Fair and Carowinds, I must say I was disappointed once again with CF's decision to put a 12 year old used coaster in Carowinds for the 2009 season. I try to be open minded about these type of decisions, looking at them from a business standpoint, but this is just a terrible move. My sentiments have been echoed by almost everyone on the Carowinds Connection forum.

The particular manufacturer of the Boomerang coaster (Vekoma) has a pretty sour reputation within the industry for building substandard coasters, known as "head bangers". The term is used due to the somewhat jerky rough ride which often accompany's this brands coaster. Steel coasters typically give smooth rides and Vekoma has not yet perfected that science within their industry. This coaster would be better off in a scrap yard, trust me on this. Marketing will hype it to the hilt though. I can't wait to see how they market this one. OK, now that I have that off my chest.......

What I am most upset with about Carowinds is the fact that Cedar Fair (and Paramount) have slowly stripped away the NC/SC themeing that built the park. Remember the themed areas, Country Crossroads, Pirate Island, Indian Thicket, Contemporary Carolinas, etc.? Paramount took most of them out and Cedar Fair has finished the job. It's so sad to see this park now (for me).

Theme park rates all over the country are rediculous. Parking rates at many Six Flags parks are $20!! Just insane! Hard Rock Park recently acknowledged they over anticipated their attendance and have lowered their rediculous $50 admission for NC & SC residents.

I still have some old photos of Thunder Road when it was painted a brilliant white with red track and blue handrails. I keep hoping one year they will repaint the ride. The sister coasters to Thunder Road at Kings Dominion & Kings Island have maintained their beautiful white paint forever.

Well, I am glad that I am not the only one that takes note of such things as cracking pavements, weeds, fading paint, etc. It took the park 13 years to finally repaint Vortex. It looked just plain awful for a long time. I guess we have to remember, these are not Busch or Disney parks so we cannot expect the flawless landscaping and paint that makes those parks so incredible (along with the employees).

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1) When I asked about the rash of break-ins in the parking lot, they say it is largely due to a large cut in the number of security people.

2) Thunder Road was closed until almost mid-summer to replaces the majority of timber that supports the coaster.

3) Yeah, the food is expensive. If you are thirsty, you can go to any food vender and ask for a free cup of ice water. This helps with cost.

4) The super saturator is gone next year, to be replaced by a new ride. It has had too many mechanical issues. Yeah, once Paramount left the coaster names had to be changed. Also, the former Hanna-Barbara area is now Nickelodeon branded, so the old Scooby Doo coaster is now the Fairy Odd coaster.

5) Insider tip; park at the campground and ride the free tram over to the park. It runs every 30 minutes. Just be discrete about it.

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