Park History

Park History


Park History

In October, 1969 Charlotte businessman E. Pat Hall announced the construction of Carowinds, a 73-acre theme park that would straddle the North and South Carolina state line and provide entertainment to families across the region. The name, Hall said, was derived from the two states the park would be named for and the winds that blew across them. The park would be larger than some of the country’s most recognizable theme parks at the time including Disneyland, Astroworld in Houston, Texas, and Six Flags in Atlanta, Ga.

On July 18, 1972, Miss North Carolina, Connie Dorn, and Miss South Carolina, Bonnie Corder joined Hall in a ceremony to pave the golden concrete state line that would begin outside the park and run through the mansion entrance and the "Courtyard of the Carolinas." Lights would adorn the state line so that riders on the Skytower and other aerial attractions at the park could pick it out at night. It also was during this ceremony that Hall announced that the park would officially open to the public on March 31, 1973.

Carowinds began its first summer of daily operation on June 2, 1973, with a brief ceremony attended by North Carolina Governor Jim Holshouser, South Carolina Governor John West, and other congressmen and dignitaries from both states.

In late December, 1974 Taft Broadcast Company partnered with Top Value Enterprises, a subsidiary of Kroger Co., and formed Family Leisure Centers, Inc. On January 19, 1975, Family Leisure Centers, Inc., announced that it would purchase Carowinds theme park for $16 million.

From 1975 – 1980, Family Leisure Centers made a number of improvements to the park, including the addition of the Paladium and roller coasters Thunder Road and Carolina Cyclone. In October 1980, the Family Leisure Centers partnership between Taft Broadcasting and the Kroger Company was dissolved and the park became a fully-owned subsidiary of Taft.

At the end of 1983, Carowinds had spent its last season under the ownership of Taft Broadcasting Company. Taft's Amusement Park Group Managers, including the park general managers and several vice presidents, came together to purchase two-thirds of Taft’s interest in the theme park business and form their own corporation.

In 1984, Carowinds would begin operation under the ownership of Kings Entertainment Company. Notable additions through the years were Frenzoid, Whitewater Falls, a water park and Vortex roller coaster.

On July 31, 1992, halfway through the summer season at Carowinds, Paramount Communications Inc. announced the purchase of Kings Entertainment Company. Beginning in 1993, Paramount Parks would become the parent company of Carowinds, and the park would be renamed Paramount's Carowinds.  Paramount incorporated many movie and entertainment themes into the park, from Star Trek to Wayne's World and more.    

In 2000, the park introduced SCarowinds, an annual Halloween attraction. SCarowinds continues to this day, on select nights in September and October the facility is transformed into a haunted theme park.  The experience includes numerous haunted attractions and incorporates most of the existing park rides into a nightmarish experience.

The Park underwent an ownership change on July 1, 2006 when Cedar Fair, L.P., owner of the world-famous Cedar Point and Knott's Berry Farm theme parks, purchased Paramount Parks in a blockbuster deal. Carowinds became part of the newly-formed Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, which owns or operates 12 amusement/theme parks and 5 separately-gated water parks across North America. The park has undergone a number of changes since the purchase and has renamed several rides and attractions. Perhaps the most notable changes have been a water park expansion and the opening of The Intimidator in 2010, the longest, tallest, fastest rollercoaster in the Southeast! 

Carowinds has changed since its start as a 73-acre park featuring the history and culture of the Carolinas.  Over the last four decades it  has evolved to become a regional, and internationally known tourist destination, employing over 2,000 people each season, welcoming visitors from around the world, and covering now 398 acres it is indeed the thrill capital of the Southeast!