Cedar Fair Entertainment
Park News - (4/7/16) While Carowinds may have just opened for the 2016 season not long ago, the park will kick off their second annual Taste of the Carolinas food festival that will run on weekends from April 9 through to May 1st. Guests are invited to buy food samples as well as wine and craft beers from seven different Carolina regions: Asheville, NC/Mountain Region; Upstate SC Region; SC Lowcountry; SC BBQ Region; Outer Banks, NC; Lexington, NC; and Charleston, SC. Follow this link to read up on all the details for this year's festival.
(3/24/16) After our preview of Plants vs Zombies, we took a hard-hat tour of the new Carolina Harbor waterpark expansion. Click here to see more!
(2/18/15) Carowinds Flat Ride Update - click here to read more.
(11/11/15) Carowinds park President, Mike Fehnel is transfering back to his old home of Dorney Park once again. Brad Marcy will take over the top spot at Carowinds, who comes with experience from working at Cedar Point and Dorney Park previously.
2016 - Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 3Z Arena - (3/23/16) Screamscape was invited to Carowinds to be one of the first to experience the new Plants vs Zonbies: Garden Warfare 3Z Arena attraction that will open for passholder previews on March 24 and to the general public this weekend. This was quite exciting for me as a video game fan to see how the fun Plants vs Zombie game play that I enjoyed would be brought to life in a unique theme park attraction.
The idea was interesting, as they would re-purpose the park's closed "Action Theater" building and with the aid of the PopCap / EA game creators on one side and the interaction hardware experts from AlterFace on the other, the project is really one to keep your eyes on. So how did it turn out?
Unfortunately, I have a somewhat mixed view on the attraction, but as a project that really is more of a giant video game brought to life in front of a large audience of players, I think most of my concerns are fixable. Carowinds also did state as we entered the queue that they were still making some final tweaks to the attraction, so what I experienced isn't necessarily the final version of the attraction, so think of this as more of a Beta Test review, ok?
The experience begins with the outside of the attraction building which has been transformed to look like a Z-Tech Factory building, under the control of Dr. Zomboss, the leader of the Zombie army. As you walk through the queue you will pass by some funny signs showing the state of the world from the Garden Warfare 2 game universe where the zombies have taken over and now the plants are fighting back. Approaching the Z-Tech building there are a couple of trailers parked out front with lots of great sight gags (you gotta love a huge gas can placed right next to the BBQ) and gadgets from the game universe characters, including a trailer for Crazy Dave, the leader of the Plants army. Overall it does a great job setting up the Plants vs Zombies universe for you, with the colors, and props being very spot on. After a bit of waiting Dr. Zomboss comes on the TV screens (which are plentiful, bright and easy to see, and very high resolution, to set up the storyline for you.
Basically you are about to take place in a little competition between Crazy Dave and Dr. Zomboss to see which army can score the most points, which are awarded for shooting the enemy team members as well as shooting elusive golden garden gnome figures hidden throughout each of the game arenas. The arenas are all set in different settings and different time-periods as you travel to each era through Dr. Zomboss' time portals. When changing zones, the scores for the teams will be tallied on the screens briefly (along with a listing of how many Golden Gnomes each team managed to grab) before you begin the next attack wave.
Sounds easy, and it is... enemies to attack are plentiful and then guns aim fairly well, just point and shoot as you would with any gun game. When you shoot the screen there will be a little golden circle showing off where you hit, through with an entire army shooting at the same screen as you, it may be a little intimidating at first to figure out which dot represents your shot and which are someone else's, but I'll give you this word of advice. Don't worry about it, just look down the barrel to eyeball the target and pull that trigger as fast as you can and you'll be fine. The guns really are pretty accurate so don't worry about how great your aim is, just shoot and you can tally your score at the end against your teammates to see if you were actually hitting targets or not.
Now I'm going to get to my critical points... as it did seem as if the experience was still just not quite ready for a general public release. Even the pre-show video looked like it had some temporary animation sections that were not quite finished being animated, or even colored, as the background for much of the pre-show video were black & white while the characters were mostly shown in fully rendered color. Once we entered and climbed onto our seat and put a blaster in hand, we were ready to go, though the opening pre-game animated sequence also had some glitches in it... adding to my feeling that this was still a Beta build of the attraction and not the final product.
From here the game play worked well enough... put on your 3D glasses, aim your blaster, shoot, repeat... and look for those Golden Gnomes hiding in special locations out of the way, as they will help your team win the war during the final score tally. Once we got to the end... it was kind of abrupt and again, a little glitchy with the animation, so take that for what you will... but while the experience was fun, it left me and others feeling a little underwhelmed by it all, along with the feeling that it just wasn't quite ready.
Fortunately, as an attraction that seems to be based more on software than hardware, those bugs can be squashed by the programmers and uploaded to the attraction to fix it and make it shine. I also had a few issues with the hardware side of things. The chairs you ride on are fine, as the unexpected little movements they do add some surprise to the experience, though I couldn't quite tell if there was a reason for why they moved when they did. The guns are another highlight feature... but with some serious issues that I feel could be fixed with some modification. The guns for each army have a unique theme to them (T-Tech blasters or Crazy Dave's Hot-Sauce Guns) and I loved the detail put into the actual hardware itself, which is attached to your seat by a very sturdy cable. However, the guns are a bit on the heavy side... not so much that they really bothered me, but my wife found herself switching hands to shoot because of the weight of the gun, and I expect my six-year old daughter is going to have an issue with them as well when she gets a turn to come back and play. I don't know if there is a way to cut some weight from the guns, but it would help the experience a bit.
My second suggestion for the guns is to replace all the triggers. The metal triggers used on the guns have hard square edges, and during the fast action of shooting the enemy team the metal edges quickly began to dig into my trigger finger. To save my aching finger, I was forced to alternate between various fingers to pull the trigger for the rest of the game. Refinishing the triggers to have a more rounded corner edge to them would improve the experience.
Lastly, since you can't tell which little pop on the screen is from your gun when you shoot, and since there are no sound effects coming from the guns themselves to indicate if pulling the trigger is actually doing anything, it would be nice if the guns had some kind of recoil kickback or rumble effect (similar to how videogame controllers work at home) to at least give the players a little physical feedback in response to each trigger pull. Just a suggestion... but I really think it would help.
So there you have it... in my honest option this is a "fun but just not-quite finished" attraction that with some changes and final software tweaking, could really turn into something very special over the summer. I'll be keeping an eye on it to see if things change over the next few months, but for now if the queue is long, come back later when the lines are short.
(10/8/15) Carowinds has announced the details of a new 3D interactive attraction that will be placed inside the old Action Theater building. It will be called Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena, and themed to the popular over-the-top action video game series. From the look of things, this may be a 3D attraction like no other.
For starters, it appears as if the audience will be divided into two teams (it is Plants vs Zombies after all), each with their own set of 34 colored motion-based seats (68 total) equipped with a hand-held laser. The teams will each be seated in front of their own 26’ x 14’6” giant screens, each featuring independent 5.1 surround sound. The teams of players will then get to witness the battle for Surburbia as their aid their team’s side in battle against the opposing team in a series of “outrageous and imaginative encounters with their competition” during the 5 minute backyard battle and track their scores. You can even purchase a photo of yourself taking part in the action in the retail store at the exit. Carowinds predicts an hourly capacity of 600-700 guests for this exclusive to Carowinds attraction, created in partnership with EA and PopCap Games. Look for it to open in Spring 2016.
2016 - Carolina Harbor Waterpark - (3/24/16)
Screamscape visited Carowinds on Wednesday and after our preview of Plants vs Zombies, we went on a hard-hat tour of the new Carolina Harbor waterpark. While they have almost 2 months to go until they open it on May 21st, all the new slide hardware for Blackbeard's Revenge and the new water fortress are already in place. The new wavepool has been poured and they are installing the wave generation equipment now while the pool cures, then they will add the final coating to the pool the first week of April and plan to begin putting in the water by mid April. The new Harbor House restaurant structure is up and in the process of being finished, while there will be two covered dining areas built on either side for guests. The new bathroom facility next to the new wavepool is already 99% complete and the building structure for the new entrance from the parking lot is now up as well. Things are looking good and while there is still a lot of work to do, they should have plenty of time to finish it up, get all the new pathways poured, new landscaping in place, and finish all the extensive renovations to the existing buildings that are in progress. In the meantime, enjoy all the pictures we took on the tour.
(1/9/16) Carowinds reported on Twitter that their new Carolina Harbor waterpark is set to open a week earlier than normal this year. Look for it to open to the public on May 21st.
(12/9/15) Carowinds posted a Periscope construction site video from the top of a nearby Surfer's Swell slide tower. Follow the link to watch the video, as vertical construction has just begin on the Blackbeard's Revenge six-story tower.
(10/7/15) The latest entry to Carowinds' Carolina Harbor blog goes over all the new colors and names that will be applied to the waterpark's existing slides for the transformation into Carolina Harbor.
(9/23/15) Carowinds has launched a dedicated construction blog for their new Carolina Harbor waterpark.
(8/27/15) Carowinds announced the details for most of their 2016 expansion plans earlier today, with the highlight being the confirmation of the long expected waterpark expansion. Boomerang Bay will be no more in 2016 as it will be renamed as the Carolina Harbor Waterpark. While one of the first changes you may notice will be a new entrance into the waterpark directly from the parking lot, this will not change the admission policy... Carolina Harbor will still be free to everyone with their daily Carowinds ticket or season pass.
The highlight of the expansion for thrill seekers will be Blackbeard's Revenge, a six-story tall slide tower with six different slide experiences. There will be three Pirate's Plank slides, which will begin in drop pods with a near vertical drop through a trap door. Cannonball Drop will be a unique tube slide where guests slide through an enclosed slide through four intense 360-degree turns. The final two tube slides will end with some intense drops down into the splash pool and will be called Captain's Curse.
The oldest wavepool will be retired and replaced with Seaside Splashworks, a large water fortress with over 80 play elements and a 423 gallon tipping bucket on top.
Nearby part of the existing kiddie area will become Kiddy Hawk Cove and Myrtle Turtle Beach, which will see a fun toddler area full of water jets added and more.
A new wave pool called Surf Club Harbor will be added near the new park entrance with the ability to create up to six foot waves in 12 different wave patterns.
Carolina Harbor will also feature a new restaurant called Harbor House that will feature two large outdoor patios that serve Carolina BBQ and seafood specials. It will also include Schooners, a full service bar for adults who need a little extra relaxation while their kids play. Carolina Harbor will offer upgraded changing facilities and restrooms, new plush cabanas and seating areas as well as Sand Volleyball courts.
For 2016 Carowinds will also offer a new live show in June called Cirque Imagine, they will open a large Starbucks location inside the park near the main entrance and they offered a brief teaser for another new unknown attraction coming in 2016. Unfortunately they wont give away the details until October, but based on the teaser video the new attraction seems to be clearly themed to the Plants vs Zombies video game series. All of the videos shown at the event have been put together back to back below, including the Plants vs Zombies teaser, which I'd love to see turned into a Triotech style dark ride experience where you can be armed with Pea Shooters to combat the undead. But we'll have to wait and see... but there is that empty Action Theater building that is ripe for a makeover, and with Thunder Road gone that area of the park needs SOMETHING to give guests a reason to enter this area of the park still.
(8/13/15) A few readers have pointed out that the basic design of the six new large waterslides being added to Carowinds waterpark matches up perfectly with the waterpark addition that was just made at Kings Dominion. I've added a copy of the Kings Dominion concept artwork, as it shows off the entire slide tower and all six slides rather nicely.
(8/12/15) The more detailed plans for Carowinds waterpark expansion have leaked out through the permits filed with the city and… to carefully use a word here… as a local guest, I have to say that I’m a little bit disappointed.
From what I’ve seen, the expansion does not really justify the removal of Thunder Road, as it really doesn’t even seem to take advantage of old coaster’s footprint. Instead, as I expected, we see a separate outside entrance being added to the waterpark, and just inside… they are adding a new wave pool that looks fairly close in size to the existing Bondi Beach wave pool that was just added in 2008. The ‘OLD’ Great Barrier Reef wave pool on the other side of the park will be replaced by a huge water fortress structure that appears to have at least 4 small waterslides attached to it. This also seems to indicate that the small Jackaroo Landing play-structure with the single slide attached will remain, for the time being.
Minor renovations are planned for the kiddie area (Kangaroo Lagoon / Wallaby Wharf) as well as the central bathhouse building, though a smaller bathhouse building will be added next to the new outside entrance area as well. And there is a proposed new food service building near the new wave pool area.
As for the major attractions… there is a new slide tower planned to go to the right of the new outside entrance area and extend back towards last year’s new pair of slides (Dorsal Fin Drop / Surfer’s Swell). From what I can tell from the plans, there will be a platform on one level that will launch three different raft slides, and on the top level it looks as if they will add 3 drop-pod style slides.
The addition of 6 new major slides and 4 kiddie slides to the mix is the good news… it’s just not exactly the news I was hoping to hear from this project. However, as someone who has visited this waterpark with his family on many occasions over the years… the expansion is somewhat overdue because the waterpark typically very crowded and lacks some much needed high-capacity thrillers, and unfortunately while these new slides will help, I just don't think it is enough.
My one criticism of last year’s two new slides, through Dorsal Fin Drop and Surfer’s Swell were much needed, is that Carowinds bought the smaller capacity versions that only allow for single rider tubes when they could have opted to buy bigger versions that would allow for double-tubes or even the behemoth sized versions that can accommodate groups of four in a giant raft. I was hoping to see this year’s waterpark expansion address this issue by adding some much-needed larger slides like a Tornado (holds up to 4 at a time), or a hydro-magnetic multi-passenger slide like Mammoth at Holiday World or RiverRush at Dollywood’s Splash Country. But the top items on my most-wanted list for Carowinds’ waterpark expansion was for a 6 to 8 lane racer slide like Aquatica’s Taumata Racer and an Action River like Aquatica’s Roa’ Rapids because the existing lazy river is so small it is the only one I’ve ever seen with an actual QUEUE to wait in just to use it.
While I appreciate the desire to expand the waterpark, as the Charlotte area really could use it, please do consider my humble wish-list when it comes time for Phase 2.
2017 - Five New Flat Rides - Confirmed - (2/18/16) According to the local news, the five flat rides purchased for Carowinds wont be added until the 2017 season.
(2/9/16) Back in August I mentioned that Cedar Fair was sending a small team of ride experts from the company on a quest to search through parks and facilities across Europe for possible new flat ride acquisitions. The quest was fruitful, with the group buying a total of 7 flat rides for just $7 million so far, and they intend to go on another search through the Asian marketplace next.
Of the seven new rides purchased and undergoing refurbishment, 5 of them will be going to Carowinds. The list includes a Mondial Top Scan (the pieces of which were already spotted at the park), a Mack Music Express, Huss Breakdance, a Huss Troika and a Zierer Wave Swinger which will likely replace the park’s existing YoYo.
The only thing I’m not sure of at this point in time is if these rides will be put in for 2016, 2017, or if they will just be added to the park one at a time, as they arrive and are ready to be installed. Either way, five new flat rides will make a great and much needed addition to Carowinds, which is a great park that is severely lacking in the full scale flat ride department, despite having a large collection of kiddie sized flats.
(11/10/15) Does Carowinds have another surprise in store for 2016? Based on a photo posted to Carowinds Connection about what was found sitting in a lot near Fury 325, it appears the seat/arms from a Mondial Top Scan ride have been delivered to the park. I've had the pleasure of riding a portable Modial Top Scan and it ranks near the top of the most extreme flat ride experiences I've ever had, so if this really is coming to Carowinds... this is a huge surprise indeed. Anyone know more?