Afterburn isn’t the only roller coaster at Carowinds celebrating a major milestone this year. You might say that after opening 25 years ago this month, it’s Party Time (Excellent!) for Hurler, Carowinds’ tallest operating wooden coaster.
Hurler opened as the centerpiece of Carowinds’ 1994 addition to the park: Wayne’s World, based on the Saturday Night Live sketch turned Paramount Film that starred SNL alums Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. The coaster got its name from the titular characters’ continued use of the phrase “hurl,” which means …well, exactly what you think it means.
Sitting on eight acres behind the former Paramount (and now Carowinds) Theater, Wayne’s World included not only Hurler, but the Scream Weaver, Rock Shop, and Stan Mikita’s Diner (now known as Juke Box Diner). It would be the first themed area to open at Carowinds after Paramount acquired the park in 1992.
In September 1993, Mike Foley, planning director for Paramount Parks design and entertainment, spoke about his vision for the park. “Themed experiences from the movies are the direction we hope to take,'' Foley told the Charlotte Observer’s Lawrence Toppman. “We have to deliver a 3-D environment, putting you right into the movies.''
This 3-D environment extended to the station for Hurler, which served as a replica of the “Doll Factory” studio utilized by Wayne and Garth in Wayne’s World 2. Originally, the queue wound underneath the coaster through a "hot set" on-location filming scene. Upon entering the station, guests passed through a full-scale set of the iconic basement of Wayne and Garth.
The queue featured Myers as Wayne, providing looped safety instructions and a “no-hurl” guarantee on monitors. (A fun fact, when the Wayne’s World theming was removed from Hurler, several props from the doll factory were repurposed for a SCarowinds maze called Maze of Madness.)
But what about the centerpiece coaster itself? Designed by the now-shuttered International Coasters, Inc., Hurler features 3,157 feet of track and an 80-foot tall first drop. The coaster has a “triple out-and-back” layout and reaches top speeds of 50 mph during the two-minute ride.
“This design hugs the ground, enhancing the sensation of speed,'' Scott Rutherford, then-news editor for American Coaster Entusiast (ACE) News told the Charlotte Observer in 1993. “The compactness will give you that out-of-the-seat sensation that makes coasters exciting, but you can ride it endlessly without your brains turning to soup.”
An identical Hurler coaster was built at Kings Dominion in 1994, also by International Coasters, Inc. In fact, these were the only two coasters manufactured by the company before they ceased operations. According to Steve Jackson, Director of Maintenance and Construction for Carowinds, the identical coasters were not a coincidence from a construction standpoint.
“It was easier to design once and build twice,” Jackson said. “Hurler was actually planned for Kings Dominion first and then replicated for Carowinds.”
Ironically, the Carowinds version of Hurler opened several weeks earlier than its twin at Kings Dominion, though the construction of both coasters was delayed due to a harsh winter for both Charlotte and Doswell.
When Hurler finally opened in June of 1994, the opening ceremony was attended by Chicago Blackhawks hockey legend Stan Mikita, whose 10-foot tall likeness rotated atop the restaurant named for him, as well as actress Tia Carerre, who played Wayne’s girlfriend Cassandra in both Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2. Myers and Carvey were not present for the opening, but there were actors impersonating both Wayne and Garth.
According to Tommy Tomlinson, who covered the opening of Hurler for The Observer in 1994, “Nobody hurled on the Hurler - at least not at the beginning - but lots of folks walked away a little woozy.”
“That was so cool,'' said 11-year-old Eli Montgomery, who rode Hurler three times in the first hour. “Your head spins when you get off.”
After Cedar Fair acquired Carowinds in 2006, the Hurler name remained, but all references to Wayne’s World were removed from the park.
Carowinds has continued to provide Hurler with some “TLC” throughout the years. In 2014, Great Coasters International rebuilt the entirety of the sweeping 180-degree turn following the first drop, resulting in a much smoother ride experience. The “back” curves have also seen extensive track work in the past few seasons.
Hurler remains a popular attraction at Carowinds. It provided more than 530,000 rides in 2018, making it the fourth most at the park last season.
Party on, Hurler! Happy 25th Birthday!
This blog is a guest post from Coaster101.com.