Cedar Fair investing $50 million at Carowinds over three years

Posted Tuesday, August 27, 2013 8:32 AM | Contributed by Jason Hammond

[Ed. note: The following is an excerpt of a press release. -J]

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (NYSE: FUN), a leader in regional amusement parks, water parks and active entertainment, today announced a multi-year expansion project for its Carowinds amusement park located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"The continued growth in the Charlotte market presents a unique opportunity for our Carowinds amusement park, which we believe is ready for record-breaking attractions," said Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair's Chief Operating Officer. "Over the next three years we intend to make several significant investments in both the amusement and water park areas, including new rides and attractions, new and upgraded food locations, and general infrastructure improvements. We plan to expand the capacity of Carowinds in all areas to appropriately serve its market and provide our guests with a 'Best Day of Summer' experience each and every time they visit our park."

The Company, which recently opened a satellite corporate office in Charlotte, expects the expanded park will draw additional tourists to the already popular Charlotte market. It will invest more than $50 million over the next three years and expects to hire an additional 15 full-time and approximately 270 seasonal jobs to support these new investments. As with many of its capital investments across the country, the Company will look to hire local companies to help with the design and construction of this multi-year expansion.

Read the entire press release from Cedar Fair.

Read more and see video from WSOC/Charlotte.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013 8:17 AM

I always thought Carowinds was small for a park that served a metro area such as Charlotte. Within a 150-170 mile radius of the park you have Raleigh, the cities that make up the research triangle in NC, as well as a couple large cities in SC. My guess is that Carowinds size is about 80% of the size of Kings Dominion. I believe KD is 2nd in size only to Kings Island as far as undeveloped land is concerned.

As far as Carowinds "grabbing" this accelerated expansion, I don't think the average Joe will ever know what went down behind closed doors. I see 2 possible scenarios for this:

1) Cedar Fair approached both municipalities earlier this year for Carowinds and Kings Dominion and waited to see who would make the better offer concerning incentives. Hanover county in VA, where Kings Dominion is located, is primarily rural in character and is located on the fringe of the Richmond metro area. The county either could have nixed the idea of giving further incentives to Cedar Fair or their offer was less than what was offered by Charlotte/Mecklenburg county. So Cedar Fair went with the accelerated expansion for Carowinds.

2) Cedar Fair, knowing that the Charlotte metro area was currently under-served by Carowinds, decided to approach the Charlotte, NC officials first to see if they could get incentives to do this accelerated expansion. If they were turned down, Cedar Fair would then do their sales pitch to the Hanover county officials in VA for Kings Dominion. Charlotte agreed to the incentives and Cedar Fair chose Carowinds for this accelerated expansion and the offer was never made to the Hanover county officials.

I am leaning toward scenario 2 in this case. Cedar Fair saw the potential for expanding Carowinds and possibly turning it into a 1st tier park for the chain; making it the same size or slightly larger than Kings Dominion. One of the news articles interviewed a Hanover county official and that person had no comment on their incentives for Kings Dominion and stated that he had no idea what transpired for Carowinds to get this expansion in relation to what was going on at Kings Dominion. The official stated he was not aware of this impacting future expansion plans for Kings Dominion.

I believe both parks will expand in the future; its just that it might take 4-5 years to get the same amount of investment for Kings Dominion that Carowinds is getting in 3 years. I look at Cedar Fair as the "door-to-door" salesmen and Charlotte bought the sales pitch and "wrote the check".

Last edited by mwh28, Sunday, September 22, 2013 8:19 AM
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Sunday, September 22, 2013 11:48 AM
Tekwardo's avatar

Agreed. If both parks have the potential to grow, the company is going to invest in both properties.


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Sunday, September 22, 2013 12:17 PM
rollergator's avatar

I'm sticking with the idea that CF used KD expansion as a red herring to drive a harder bargain with the local and state gov'ts around Carowinds. Will KD grow? Yes, but not as quickly as the Carolinas park, which has more opportunities and fewer threats.

Of course, I'm also the one who said that CGA was on its way out the door...

Last edited by rollergator, Sunday, September 22, 2013 12:17 PM
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Friday, October 11, 2013 9:22 AM
Tekwardo's avatar

So...at the city council meeting back in June where they approved the tax incentives, a Neighborhood Economic Development manager put together a slide presentation talking about Carowinds redoing their entrance gate, etc. mentioned a 300' 'wing coaster'. They showed pictures of the new gate and Gatekeeper at CP as a reference, and of course, it has to be taken with a huge grain of salt as much of what the guy said was incorrect (only 3 coaster mfgs in the world, world's tallest coaster at 480'), but he did say they were planning on building a 300' wing coaster.

I thought that perhaps he was mistaken, but someone on another board pointed out that perhaps they were getting an Intamin giga with the new Skyrush wing trains.

If so, that'd be great.

Oh, and Afterburn is getting Patriot's paint scheme.


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 11:46 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

I just thought I'd do some updates, I plan on doing an opening day photo trip report soon.

Carowinds is turning Outer Hank's into a Chickie's and Pete's full service inside restaurant (they're expanding the building) for this year, plus they moved the Chik Fil A stand to an indoor sit-down venue and are using the former CFL stand for funnel cakes.

Plus they're building Harmony Hall, a 'food court' type indoor eating place with live music. For those that didn't know, Harmony Hall was a theater at the park before they turned it into what is now the dark ride shooter. And I seem to remember it hosting country music, just like the new one will.

They painted the mouse Green and Blue (think Deja Vu) and they did end up repainting Afterburn, but after announcing the new color scheme, they (thankfully) stuck with the old color scheme, and it looks nice. All of the parks coasters have been repainted in the last couple of years and its great.

GCI tore out and completely rebuilt (and slightly reengineered) Hurler's first turn (and removed the trim). Hurler is running well, and, much like Thunder Road, GCI is in the midst of a multi year rehab.

The new slides are being put in by memorial day, I can't wait.

They moved the sky coaster (now named Ripcord) to the middle of the park by Nightwing. It looks nice. It used to be by Hurler's far turn around, and they're removing the go-carts that are there. That, apparently, is where the new coaster is going.

And someone on carowindsconnection found some plans on line for construction for the new toll gate that is being built out on the Avenue of the Carolinas (it looks like it'll be nicer than what they have). It also shows part of the path of the new coaster (and a tunnel). Next year should shape up to be pretty good...


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014 11:58 PM
rollergator's avatar

Tekwardo said:

GCI tore out and completely rebuilt (and slightly reengineered) Hurler's first turn (and removed the trim).

We'll let you know when we'll be there.... :~P

Last edited by rollergator, Wednesday, April 9, 2014 11:59 PM
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Thursday, April 10, 2014 8:53 AM
Jeff's avatar

That's a really nice park. I'm hoping to get there this year. My total experience was two hours there last summer on the way down to Florida, mid-move.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Music: The Modern Gen-X - Video

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Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:07 AM

I like it there, too, and it's a park that deserves attention. I'd be glad to have it as my home park.

One of the things severely lacking from Kings Island is a nice, casual, sit down restaurant or two. Or three. The small, indoor Skylines and places like that just ain't cutting it. The buffet (such as it was) is now a Cincinnati Reds sports bar, so there's less of a general audience for that. I like the idea of a large food court with live music. It sounds like Carowinds is getting it right with the Harmony Hall concept.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:23 AM
Raven-Phile's avatar

Yes, but that sports bar was the source of much entertainment during Beast Buzz. I'm very, very glad it's there now.

I still can't believe they do 1/2 price domestic drafts during Reds games. :)


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:34 AM
LostKause's avatar

RCMAC, Festhaus is "a large food court with live music."


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Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:46 AM

Oh heck, yes it is! Where's my head?

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Friday, April 11, 2014 3:36 AM
LostKause's avatar

You probably meant a food court with 'good' music. lol


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Friday, April 11, 2014 7:39 AM

Yes I did. Man, that show is consistently bad.
The Panda's good though...

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Friday, April 11, 2014 12:27 PM
Tekwardo's avatar

While I'm not a country fan, I can't say it's not good music. People playing real instruments and writing about what they feel seems as close to good music as we get these days.


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Friday, April 11, 2014 12:40 PM
LostKause's avatar

I'm the opposite of a country fan. I only learn to acknowledge that it has it's place in the world a few years ago when I took my mom to The Grand Ole Opry. At the same time, I was reading a few book about songwriting that changed my opinion about how I view the genera. I loved the show in Nashville, and I have a new respect for that kind of music, but I still don't like it.

...Except for some artists like Dolly, Willy Nelson, and Johnny Cash, of course.

I do understand that it is appealing to many people, and that a country show can serve a lot of people who attend a park. I just don't personally enjoy listening to it. It's hard for me to not hold my ears and laugh at how silly they sound.


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Friday, April 11, 2014 3:53 PM

I am a country fan, but when I watch that show at KI all I can see is college kids dressed in Halloween costumes singing bad covers of tunes when they ain't got a speck of country in 'em. Like fake Dolly and Kenny accents all over the place. Ugh.

Hopefully the Harmony Hall will feature real artists, bands and the like. Doubt it. They'll probably just recycle some country-ish show from another CF park somewhere.

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Friday, April 11, 2014 5:35 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

I appreciate all music.

I've seen all kinds of different acts live, and I love something about each and every one of them.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Sunday, April 13, 2014 2:43 AM
LostKause's avatar

I actually have been trying really hard to find at least one thing to appreciate about every bit of music playing within earshot. Supposedly, it make one a better songwriter to do so, or something.

I absolutely hated-NO, DESPISED country music when I was younger. I had to cover my ears and hum quietly, because it is very difficult for me to block any kind of music out. It's the twang; the steel guitars crying over the song. It's the southern accents in the vocals and the perfect backing vocals sung in harmony in a higher register. It's the topics - pick-up trucks, tractors, beer, 'Murrica.

It's just so... so strange to me.


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Sunday, April 13, 2014 5:30 AM

And there you are, from West By God Virginia...

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Sunday, April 13, 2014 8:14 AM

LostKause said:

I'm the opposite of a country fan. I only learn to acknowledge that it has it's place in the world a few years ago when I took my mom to The Grand Ole Opry. At the same time, I was reading a few book about songwriting that changed my opinion about how I view the genera. I loved the show in Nashville, and I have a new respect for that kind of music, but I still don't like it.

...Except for some artists like Dolly, Willy Nelson, and Johnny Cash, of course.

I do understand that it is appealing to many people, and that a country show can serve a lot of people who attend a park. I just don't personally enjoy listening to it. It's hard for me to not hold my ears and laugh at how silly they sound.

When I visited Albuquerque on the weekend of May 20 if you turned on your radio you couldn't go15 minutes without hearing Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. at least once.Their stations ran that song into the ground.

(For the record on May 20, 1012 Albuquerque was in the path an Annular ("Ring of Fire") Solar Eclipse, and the entire city PARTIED! There was one little drawback, When visited Cliff's Park the day before the eclipse I found Cliff's Amusement Park to be PACKED! I had to wait two hours to ride the New Mexico Rattler, and 45 minutes to ride the Galaxi).


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