A look back at Carowinds’ Thunder Road

Posted Friday, July 10, 2015 9:19 AM | Contributed by Amnesiac

From the article:

On May 23, 2015, Carowinds announced the closure of its iconic racing wooden roller coaster, Thunder Road. Originally opened in 1976, Thunder Road has taken nearly 40 million riders on a wild ride across the North Carolina and South Carolina state line, becoming the first roller coaster to accomplish this feat. With the closure of the classic coaster rapidly approaching, we wanted to take a look at Thunder Road’s storied history, and that begins with the history of Carowinds itself.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015 4:49 PM
Thabto's avatar

But since they paid to use that name, even if they did strip the racing theme, I couldn't see that going over well with their lawyers.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015 7:45 PM
bjames's avatar

Thabto said:

But since they paid to use that name, even if they did strip the racing theme, I couldn't see that going over well with their lawyers.

It doesn't matter how it goes over with lawyers. Trademark law is trademark law. Captain Hawkeye is correct in his short summary. Roller Coasters and NASCAR races are not the same business.

"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 7:53 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Cedar Fair didn't pay to use the word "intimidator," it licensed the use of the specific "Intimidator" trademark owned by Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Strip away the trade dress etc and a roller coaster named Intimidator doesn't violate the Earnhardt trademark.

The Earnhardt company could try to make a case before a judge that the general public would be sufficiently befuddled by how very similar a roller coaster and an ad-laden racing car are to each other that Cedar Fair shouldn't be allowed to use the word.

I'm not a lawyer, but I watch Judge Judy every day, so my legal reasoning is flawless :-p

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 8:08 PM
Thabto's avatar

If the coaster started out as a ride named Intimidator but was rocketship themed, DEI couldn't make a case. What makes me think that a name change is required is that there was a pre-existing ride that licensed DEI trademarks, but now that they may no longer be using said trademarks, it could mean the name has to go with it. It depends on what is stated in the contract. If the contract says to change the name, then name needs to be changed.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015 11:09 PM
Jeff's avatar

While it's true that the trademark is specific to the racing property, there is precedent with the existing license which could make an argument for one of the legal tests, which is the potential for "confusion in the marketplace." The ride is/was named for the racing property, so continuing to use that would likely pass that test for infringement because one would reasonably assume that the association still exists.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Thursday, July 16, 2015 8:32 AM

See, this is why I have a little trouble with these licensing agreements, especially with this one. The Intimidator brand has lived at two southern parks, where Dale and the sport in general are near and dear to everyone's hearts. By now everyone knows these famous coasters by name and reputation, and now, allegedly, all that's going to have to change. So the park is left with a couple of choices. They can completely change the look and theme of the ride and give it a new name, or after stripping Dale completely away can just leave it as it is and give it a new name. Either way, it can lead to potential confusement amongst the general public, and may telegraph the message that the brand is either no longer desirable or there was trouble between the two entities.

And not to over-think this, but if I was an operator I'd be inclined to avoid agreements that were limited by time, knowing that eventually I'd be faced with changes that could be costly, not only in the pocketbook but in the public's perception. New and unique names and themes are maybe more successful in the long run. To be sure, no one will ever come and take Fury325 away from that park.

It's interesting to think back over time about this occurrence. Where name changes are most successful is where a complete overhaul is possible. Cedar Point had success transforming a kids' area into Planet Snoopy, but that area was treated to a total design change. Rougarou is an interesting (and perhaps unprecedented?) example, as most of that ride remained exactly the same, but with a new train and station the park sensed a marketing opportunity. I'm not sure how successful that is in the end, as I still have people come up to me to ask if I've been on "that new one up there". My answer is alway "No... and yes..." They're usually a little non-plussed when I explain it's actually the Mantis ride re-born in a couple of ways.

Six Flags St. Louis made a huge splash in announcing and promoting Evel Knievel and that lasted, what, two seasons? It kind of falls into the Why Bother category for me. The new name is American Thunder, which sounds like a step down in the daredevil department. And the ride is in the World's Fair section of the park, so it still doesn't "fit", but whatever...

Name changes are nothing new, even Geauga Lake's signature woodie had several different names throughout it's history. (Now it's name is Mud...) And the largest example of this is when entire parks changed from Paramount to Cedar Fair forcing the renaming of many attractions. I still hear people at Kings Island refer to rides there by the wrong name. Re-educating customers is a tough and challenging part of any business and I'm not sure I'd deliberately put myself on that path.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 9:25 AM
ApolloAndy's avatar

The Tony Hawk's have also been de-branded. I don't know how much confusion it caused in the GP, but I know the first time I figured it out was when I walked into the park and noticed all the theming was gone. As someone who follows the news pretty closely I was completely surprised by this. Which may be an indication that nobody else cared at all or was confused at all and just got on the ride...

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Thursday, July 16, 2015 10:06 AM
rollergator's avatar

If I were the one deciding the case, and DEI served papers to CF over their continuing use of the Intimidator name after discontinuing the agreement...

It would be a no-contest. CF would lose that case all day long. You want out from the agreement from DEI, and to sever the NASCAR ties, fine. But don't try to sell me an obvious Snoopy® product, after severing the agreement with United Feature Syndicate, and then tell me, "well, you know, it's a word referring to someone who sneaks around spying on people, it has nothing to do with Peanuts®." (Or, in Judge Judy terms: "Don't pee on me and tell me it's raining.")

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

Thursday, July 16, 2015 10:11 AM

I've wondered if anyone has challenged Darien Lake over "Ride of Steel" or if the trademark owners just don't care (or haven't noticed).

If I were more clever, something funny would be here.
Thursday, July 16, 2015 10:42 AM

Well, yes. Once again, there's a sensitivity to these things that is most prominent in enthusiast communities. Where we would like to see (expect, really) perfection in all matters, (I'm guilty...), the once-a-year-day customers most likely don't care, they can still find the ride and a name change or removal of theming doesn't discourage them from getting in line.

However, when I last visited St. Louis they were in the process of changing the signage and story boards along American Thunder's queue. The name had already been changed, and there was quite a bit of conversation amongst those that were waiting in regard to the change. A lot of it sounded like "Ya know, this is really Evel Knievels" and stuff like that. And in the end maybe parks are happy to pony up at the beginning for that great publicity and hope for a seamless change later. After all, the next big thing has usually already arrived, right?

I wondered myself about that Ride O' Steel, but reckoned maybe that phrase (or partial phrase) doesn't count in the copyright. It does seem to walk a fine line, though.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 12:54 PM
Carrie J.'s avatar

Yeah, I don't know about this one. I think generally in licensing changes, even if folks care initially, eventually everyone would move on and ridership would continue. But I'm a little on what I think is a similar wavelength as Gator on this. Though it seems not many on CBuzz care about or like NASCAR, it still has a huge following. And they didn't just give these coasters a NASCAR theme, they named them after one of the most revered legends in the sport (who also passed away in a race which adds more emotionality for fans.) And in the case of 305, they included a small area honoring him, specifically. I don't know if they can pull that out quietly and there not be a loud response from the masses in those geographical areas. I guess we'll find out.

But I tend to agree with RCMAC, particularly in this case given the extra emotionality surrounding the namesake, that going into this licensing agreement might not have been a good idea if it wasn't intended to last over time.

Last edited by Carrie J., Thursday, July 16, 2015 1:01 PM

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, July 16, 2015 1:01 PM
birdhombre's avatar

^^ Well, they could claim Ride of Steel is just a literal description of the ride. Maybe they could change the name to "Ride of Iron-Carbon Alloy."

Thursday, July 16, 2015 1:24 PM
Vater's avatar

This is one of the reasons I think the Hurler name was so brilliant, whether it was intentional or just stupid luck (I'm going with the latter). I always thought theming a coaster (let alone an entire section of the park) after Wayne's World--an IP with what I thought even back then had little to no staying power--was asinine, but thankfully the ride's name lends itself well to a generic wooden coaster once that IP was removed.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 2:44 PM
rollergator's avatar

With Intimidator, there's no question you have "prior use" with NASCAR and are trying to continue to capitalize on that association after failing to renew licensing (IMHO).

With Ride of Steel, once you take the "Superman" out of the equation, and it's not MAN of Steel, not too many are going to say, "wait, you're ripping off a comic book legend." I'll admit feeling a little more hesitant with that one because of the previous use of Superman: Ride of Steel, but not enough...

With Hurler, they could've/should've just slid a 'T' in the middle...

Oh, wait, is this the Cannibal thread... ;~P

Thursday, July 16, 2015 4:19 PM

RCMAC said:

I still hear people at Kings Island refer to rides there by the wrong name.

I still call their boomerang Face/Off. I don't even know what its real name is.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 6:22 PM

Carowinds could simply re-theme Intimidator to a monster and/or creature and keep the name. Unless DEI wants to claim there would be confusion between Dale and a monster

This Isn't A Hospital--It's An Insane Asylum!

Thursday, July 16, 2015 9:32 PM

We always called it Face Off in the Corner. (hockey league at the leper colony...)

Anyway, the new, and as far as I'm concerned, correct name is Invertigo. I think the first one in the U.S. was at Cali. Great America and that's what they called it.

Last edited by RCMAC, Saturday, July 18, 2015 5:23 AM

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