Skip to Main Content

Learn the Modern History of Carowinds Fun Family Water Park

Skip to Next Section

Making a Big Splash Through the Years: Water Worked at Carowinds' Waterpark 

Andrew Stilwell

Andrew Stilwell is a writer for and was a member of the Carowinds “Caroblogger” Program from 2015-2017. You can follow him on twitter at @stilwell and on twitter at @Coaster101.

Carowinds’ water park has been constantly evolving since its debut in 1982. As Carolina Harbor opens for its 5th anniversary later this season, we're taking a look at the history of the water park and how it grew from humble beginnings into the “largest water park in the Carolinas.”

Last time, we examined the water park’s early beginnings as Ocean Island and RipTide Reef. Part two of this story begins with the 1997 transformation from RipTide Reef into a new water park, WaterWorks.

WaterWorks (1997-2006)

WaterWorks Classic Carowinds Fun Family Water Park

Waterworks as advertised in the 1997 Carowinds Press Kit. Photo: TPR User Montezooma

After several years of park expansion under the “Paramount’s Carowinds” moniker, including a new "Wayne’s World"-themed area and the expansion and renaming of "Hanna-Barbera Land" to "Animation Station," Paramount Parks expanded Carowinds’ waterpark again, in celebration of the park’s 25th operating season in 1997.

Open on May 3, 1997, the water park would now be called WaterWorks. (a name used at fellow Paramount Parks properties Kings Island from 1989-2004 and Kings Dominion from 1999-2014), This $7.5 million expansion doubled the size of Carowinds’ waterpark to 12 acres and gave the water park a total of 12 attractions.

“Expanding the water park in 1997 was just what the park needed,” said Carowinds’ longtime Vice President of Operations Jerry Helms. “It gave us capacity and it allowed people to get out of the heat in the summer, and it solidified us as ‘two parks in one.’ It definitely was a step in the right direction.”

As part of this expansion, the Carowinds water park added two new children’s areas, the three-story Splash Factory play area, and Squirt Works, which was targeted more towards younger children and infants. They also added two slides, a four-story, 564’ long raft slide named "Tidal Wave," and the 370’ long dueling chutes known as "Wipeout," as well as the 1000’ long "Carolinas’ Ramblin’ River" Lazy River attraction.

"Tidewater Bay" was renamed to "Big Wave Bay," and the "Carolina Pipeline" slide tower was enclosed and renamed "The Abyss." “Our guests really won't recognize the water park,'' park spokesman David Mandt told the Charlotte Observer prior to WaterWorks’ opening.

“It's a totally new experience from what they've enjoyed before.”

Water Slides at Carowinds' Classic Family Water Park WaterWorks

Tidal Wave at WaterWorks. Photo:

WaterWorks featured 600 lounge chairs and 275 beach chairs, and 1,100 lockers. Watt H. Burris, General Manager of Paramount’s Carowinds in 1997, had the following to say about the addition of Waterworks to Carowinds.

"Paramount's Carowinds is like two small cities in one park," he said. "WaterWorks is so big and offers so many new attractions and amenities that guests can spend an entire day or more in that area alone.”

Pipeline Peak Water Slide at Carowinds' Classic Family Water Park WaterWorks

In 2001, Waterworks saw the addition of "Pipeline Peak," a slide tower featuring four enclosed slides; two body slides, and two tube slides.  At the time, it was the tallest enclosed water slide in the world. It held that distinction for a reason; Burris did his homework.

“Watt Burris used to be the general manager at Kings Dominion,” recalled Helms. “He knew that Kings Dominion had recently installed similar slides, so he called manufacturers and asked how tall the slides were at Kings Dominion. When they told him, Watt responded ‘Well, make ours two feet taller!’ because he knew the importance of being able to say they were the tallest slides.”

To celebrate the debut of the slide complex, Carowinds held a contest with a local radio station, and seven couples were able to “take the plunge”.

“The bride, a small white veil atop her head, wore a blue-and-white one-piece with black straps, black shorts and aqua socks. The groom, in sunglasses, came dressed in a white T -shirt, sport sandals, black trunks and black bow tie.” wrote Heather Howard of the Charlotte Observer of one couple’s attire during the ceremony.

The ceremony was presided over by Carowinds sales representative (and minister) Karla Oakley, who counseled the couples about the "twists and turns" of marriage, the "thrills" they could expect and how they might get frightened and "want off the ride."

“‘It's a leap of faith into the unknown,’ she told the group. A few minutes later, the brides and grooms hiked to the top of the slide and hurled themselves down - into wedded bliss.” Howard wrote in The Observer.

Pipeline Peak was the last new addition at Waterworks before the next rebranding of Carowinds’ water park, Boomerang Bay.

Boomerang Bay (2006-2015)

Logo for Classic Carowinds Family Water Park Boomerang Bay

2006 was a big year for Carowinds. Not only were they (along with the rest of the Paramount Parks) purchased by Cedar Fair on July 1, but they also unveiled their latest water park expansion and rebrand. Featuring a new “Aussome” Australian theme, Boomerang Bay added an additional four acres to Carowinds’ water park footprint.

There were two new attractions added as part of this expansion in 2006; the "Kookubura Bay" heated lagoon and "Platypus Plunge" children’s slide.

Water Slide at Classic Carowinds Family Water Park Boomerang Bay

As part of the rebranding, many of the former Waterworks attractions received Australian makeovers. Among some of the name changes: The “Carolinas’ Ramblin River” became “Crocodile Run,” “Tidal Wave” became “Down Under Thunder,”  “Splash Factory” became “Jackaroo Landing” and “Big Wave Bay” became  the “Great Barrier Reef.” The one attraction that didn’t see an initial name change was “Pipeline Peak,” (though later became the "Tasmanian Typhoon" and "Bondi Pipeline").

Water Park Play Area at Carowinds' Boomerang Bay Classic Family Water Park

In 2008, Boomerang Bay expanded again, adding a second wave pool, "Bondi Beach." Measuring in at 600,000 gallons and 34,000 square feet, it was advertised that "Bondi Beach" would “provide a surf-like experience for guests.”

“Bondi Beach really helped the water park, because at that point it was obvious that the original wave pool was dated and needed to be replaced,” Helms said. “It gave guests another option to cool off in the muggy summer heat.”

“People like fun and they like originality, but they also like that mass of a lot of different options,” he continued. “That’s what we tried to do. You’ve got to have a wave pool for the volume, everybody loves a lazy river, people want a little excitement with the slides. Our water park is a lot like our park, it has a little bit of everything. It gives the opportunity for people to choose, there’s still plenty of options for everyone.”

In May 2014, two more slides were added to Boomerang Bay; Dorsal Fin Drop and Surfer's Swell. These slides were the first step of a multi-year $50 million expansion that saw Carowinds add not-only the record-breaking Fury 325, but also expand their water park again...


For more stories from Andrew Stilwell visit 

Related Topics:

Share This

Andrew Stilwell

Andrew Stilwell is a writer for and was a member of the Carowinds “Caroblogger” Program from 2015-2017. You can follow him on twitter at @stilwell and on twitter at @Coaster101.

Post a Comment

Skip to Next Section

You're Sure to Fall for These Delicious Autumn Dishes

Our executive chef has cooked up some new fall-inspired dishes that you'll definitely want to taste for yourself. But for now, we'll "leaf" you with these delicious photos. Try not to drool on the screen.
Read More

Top Six Things to Know for SCarowinds 2018

Every fall, SCarowinds terror intensifies and grows. Check out these six tips for the best - and most blood-curdling - experience.
Read More

Granny's Epic Secret Revealed

Everybody knew about Granny's delicious concoction. Best for miles around. She’d won blue ribbons at the county fair for 40 years with that jam, but no more. Granny Byrd’s secret recipe is gonna be yours.
Read More

A Closer Look at Copperhead Strike

It’s twice the bite on Copperhead Strike! Here’s an up-close first look at all the twists, turns and record-breaking statistics delivered by the Carolina’s first double launch coaster.
Read More

The Foundations of Copperhead Strike

As we introduce Copperhead Strike, here's a look behind the construction fence at what’s already been set in stone – well, reinforced concrete.
Read More

Make the Final Days of Summer Amazing

It’s hard to believe that we’re already past the halfway point of the summer season. Before school starts again, get outside and savor the last of the long summer days. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Charlotte with your family and friends, Carowinds is the place for you! Here’s a list of some of the top ways to squeeze every bit of fun out of the dog days of summer.
Read More

When Mother Nature Threatens the Fun

When you imagine the best day ever at Carowinds, you're thinking warm and sunny. Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn't always behave according to plans. Here's a detailed look at how we keep you safe when clouds come rolling in.
Read More

Serving our country, serving our guests

Carowinds is the place where all sorts of families come together for fun and memory-making. From June 30 – July 8 we’re proud to recognize military members and their families during Military Days. As we thank these brave service men and women, we’re also taking a moment to recognize a few of our full-time staff members who served in the military.
Read More

Guide to Camp Wilderness

Living two hours away from Carowinds has spoiled us over the years. My husband and I both had the opportunity to come for the day with our youth groups and friends as teenagers. Now, we come for the day to have fun with our own children! In all the years past, we really missed it! We missed the chance to make Carowinds more than just a day trip. Have you ever thought of STAYING at Carowinds? Now you can at Carowinds Camp Wilderness!
Read More

Seasons of Cirque 

Carowinds’ world-class entertainment has awed our park guests for 45 seasons. Our 2018 season is no different, as we unveil our new show, Seasons of Cirque. It's sure to captivate audiences of all ages and become a fan favorite.
Read More