Carowinds attendance grows

The park was surprisingly busy on Saturday. Memorial Day weekend had been slow in previous years at other parks so I expected this year's to be the same. Luckily operators were decent overall.

I was rather unimpressed with Carowinds. They seem to operate more like a Six Flags park in their bad days than a Cedar Fair park. I noticed they seemed to have supervisors at every ride and yet everywhere you went, the parent swap system was different. At Intimidator, they wanted us to wait in line and then bring an infant on the platform and pass him through the train. At another ride, they wanted us to have someone bring the baby up the exit so they could see him. One place they let the person watching the baby plus one other person ride. Another place they said the person watching the baby had to ride by themselves. We pick on Cedar Fair for trying to do things the Cedar Point way everywhere, but if there's one thing they should be doing that with, it's the parent swap system because it just makes sense and works great for everyone. In the case of Carowinds, they couldn't even make the policy consistent across the park. Kind of seemed like someone incompetent was running the place.

In fact, we saw that person and about three other suits standing around with trash pickers chit chatting with a young girl about 18. Perhaps it was his girlfriend I dunno. Good thing he was the only GM protected in that Apollo agreement. Wouldn't want to lose talent like that. </sarcasm>


Jeff's avatar

+1 @Matt.

crazy horse's avatar

I had issues at carowinds last year with the parent swap as well. I wanted to do the parent swap, and they just looked at me all confused and said "what is a parent swap"?

After explaining it to them, they called a manager to confirm that this was an actual park policy.

I can maybe understand this in the first week or two that the park was open, but this was the middle of summer for gods sake.

Last edited by crazy horse,

what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard.
Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it.
I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

kpjb's avatar

Disney and Universal are the only parks I've been to that I've found a consistent parent swap program with well-informed staff.

Then again, I don't know what the parent swap policy is at my own park so what's that saying?


I attended the Carowinds event with ECC last Sunday morning (June 6) and during the picnic, Kinzel & Helms (VP of Marketing) spoke to the group.

They said (exact quote) that their goal is to make Carowinds the "Cedar Point of the South". Charlotte & Carowinds are in an ever so growing area and they intend to make Carowinds one of the best parks anywhere.

Also overheard them say they are planning 5 years out and already trying to find a way to top Intimidator. I like that idea!

Jeff's avatar

The Charlotte metro (using the chamber of commerce's more liberal measurement) is around 2.5 million people, but it's not growing that fast, certainly not to the level of the total population of Cleveland and Detroit (plus the peripheral markets like Columbus, Cincy and maybe even Pittsburgh). I'm not convinced that building another huge ride has huge ROI potential. I'm not even convinced that Intimidator will "get 'er done," to use the parlance of NASCAR fans.

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Lord Gonchar's avatar

I seem to remember reading (several times over the past few years, actually) that North Carolina was one of the fastest growing states in terms of population. (specifically migration to from other areas of the country)

Tekwardo's avatar

The Charlotte Metro area isn't that huge...But Carowinds being the only (open) major theme park from Richmond to Atlanta means that they draw from the southern half of WV, southern VA, all of North and South Carolina, and even parts of Georgia.

And even though Mecklenburg County's growth isn't that huge, there is quite a bit of growth in surrounding counties in metrolina, and Winston and Greensboro both filter into Charlotte and aren't considered part of the Charlotte Metro area.

I live about 30 minutes from the city limits, and I've stopped trying to go into the city after 5pm on Friday nites because traffic is always backed up to just past my exit (makes it tough going home, I usually have to take the scenic route on Fridays). I work in Winston Salem and everyone here heads down 90 minutes to Charlotte because there is more and more to do down there.

I don't think we'll see anything as big as Intimidator in the next 5 years (but would love to be proven wrong), but I do think that Carowinds will see a return on investment in adding a few big attractions (Flats? Please?). With the NASCAR Hall of fame, they put Intimidator in just in time. The area was packed during the race, and with the exception of when it rained on Sunday, Carowinds was said to be packed for race weekend. Now that they have Intimidator, I think most race weekends will be like that for a while.

Edit: Gonch, yes, it is. The locals complain about it down here all the time. Like I said, it isn't all going to the Charlotte Metro Area, but the state as a whole is growing

Last edited by Tekwardo,

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mlnem4s's avatar

Tekwardo hit the nail on the head. It absolutely makes sense to invest money in a park like Carowinds versus a stagnant park like Cedar Point that really only needs to maintain what they have better. I don't think anyone can appreciate the potential this area has until you have lived here, there is pent up demand for entertainment, nightlife, attractions, etc.

Specifically related to Carowinds, there is a definite need for improvements to the water park (water coaster, funnel slide, etc.) I suspect we will see some focus on that next year from what I gather. I'd also like to see them move the go-karts over to the open area around Intimdator and then do something to liven up the area around Drop/Hurler, it seems like an afterthought around there. Add in a top spin/break dance/super himalaya/frisbee/etc to round out the flats. Coaster-wise, a launched experience would be the next logical addition. Remember too, the CEO's son being here ensures major attention put on the park.

rollergator's avatar

Maybe on an off-year, they could add GL's Haybaler and rename it "The Tobacco Shed". ;)

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

Jason Hammond's avatar

Well, that would be fine if it wasn't scrapped by Cleveland Scrap.

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It was hard to hear some of the "stats" that Kinzel spouted last Sunday. The picnic pavilion was just feet away from Intimidator and it was very loud and screamy.

Anyway, I couldn't hear the exact number but (and no surprise here) the park attendance was already up dramatically over previous years. May broke an all time attendance record for the park.

One thing that CF is banking on with making Carowinds the "Cedar Point of the South" is we are their southern most park (in the east). We open earliest in the season. The weather and location play a huge factor in this decision I am certain.

CF is thinking long term. People are fleeing Detroit & Cleveland in record numbers. Those cities may have larger populations now, but NC & Charlotte are where they all seem to moving to. Location, jobs & 4 seasons are what I hear constantly from Ohioans that come to my business every day here in Charlotte.

Jeff's avatar

mlnem4s said:
Tekwardo hit the nail on the head. It absolutely makes sense to invest money in a park like Carowinds versus a stagnant park like Cedar Point that really only needs to maintain what they have better.

I wasn't disputing that. I was disputing the level of investment appropriate for the population, and I'm not convinced it requires more investment. That "map" that Tek draws is large, but there are no large metros to speak of in it, and in terms of east tourism, the beach Charlotte is not.

Remember too, the CEO's son being here ensures major attention put on the park.

Not to mention higher potential for failure.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeff said:
That "map" that Tek draws is large, but there are no large metros to speak of in it, and in terms of east tourism, the beach Charlotte is not.

No large metros, but don't underestimate the migration that's happening to that part of the country. It's huge from what I understand...and has been happening for several years with no signs of slowing.

Couple that with the fact that Carowinds is the only major park for 4 hours in every direction and suddenly it's very attractive to those growing populations.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar,
Jeff's avatar

I'm not disputing that either. So what? You don't build something that doesn't yet exist. In software development, we call that scope creep, and it's expensive. Show me that they can maintain or exceed attendance next year without a new attraction, and then I'll be convinced that additional investment is appropriate.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Lord Gonchar's avatar

I'm not sure it doesn't exist. I don't think you're giving that area enough credit. Migration is happening, but it's not like a huge population isn't already there.

NC is the 10th most populous state. That's 9.3 million people for whom the closest park is a long shot. Not too many parks have that kind of command over a population that large...and growing. (just looked it up and they saw a 16.6% increase from 2000 to 2009)

Create a two hour radius around Carowinds to represent the population that has Carowinds as their absolute closest park and it pretty much mirrors where some of the biggest growth in the country has happened (and continues to happen).

It's almost the exact inverse of what CP has been facing.

I dunno. Seems shortsighted not to anticipate/take advantage of that. I don't think it crosses that line into any sort of scope creep (I read up real quick :) ) and sits squarely in the range of smart business thinking. You're in a big region that has seen plenty of growth with no signs of slowing. Match your product to that.

obxKevin's avatar

I just keep hearing Will Koch saying something like, " It's not build and they will come, it's they are coming, we need to hurry up and build."

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LostKause's avatar

I just don't see Carowinds as a park that is large enough, land-wise, to be the so-called "Cedar point of the South". Where are they going to build more park without tearing out more parking?

Tekwardo's avatar

Travis, they actually own quite a bit of land, and there is extra grassy parking in front of the parking lot where they could tear up some more asphalt close to the park, and expand the parking lot, if need be.

...and in terms of east tourism, the beach Charlotte is not.

I agree with that 100%, but...many of the touristy beaches are seeing sharp declines in tourism with the smaller beaches not seeing an increase. But even still, beach tourism is usually a weekend or week long destination, while Carowinds is a day trip (even from WV and VA). Many people do both, especially here in the Carolinas.

I don't see Carowinds becoming exactly like CP in any terms. I wonder if they'd ever build something taller than Intimidator with the Airport so close (but, then, they do have a 300' skytower). And honestly, I don't see them adding a $20mill coaster for their next ride. I hope that by 'topping Intimidator', they just mean an experience that tops Intimidator. They could do that with a good launched coaster (Maverick South Please?).

It was my understanding from park people and others that work with them that Carowinds has had a steady growth in recent years. I think one thing that has kind of hurt them is lack of contemporary concerts at the amphitheater, but the Christian concerts do bring in a large crowd.

When Carowinds' attendance dropped, the park felt stagnant. From 1999 to 2004 (the gap between major coasters) they got a few smaller family coasters, which is nice, and definitely needed, as well as some other family attractions, but the park still lacked (and still lacks) some major non-coaster thrill rides, and I think that has hurt the park. Then there were some lean years where not much was added. Carolina Cobra was a good investment for the park, and ramped up the 2010 season.

Seriously, for those that haven't been this year, Carowinds looks like a different park. All but 2 of the coasters have been painted in recent years, and the whole park has been landscaped much better than it was, pavers put down, and just a whole lot of freshness added. I think they most definitely can keep attendance peaks that they gain this year, and if they invest more in the waterpark and add a couple of thrilling flats, the park will be well rounded and able to keep the public's interest.

P.S. Not only is NC 10th in Population, but it is 15th in Population Density, and SC is 24th in Population and 21st in Population density. Remember, the park is actually in both states, so it draws from 2 fairly populous states.

Last edited by Tekwardo,

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