Carowinds offers behind the scenes tour of latest expansion

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There was plenty of mud, dust, noise and walking during an unusual visit Wednesday to Carowinds.

Dozens of reporters and photographers donned hard hats for a walking tour of the new water park expansion called Carolina Harbor.

Director of construction Steve Jackson herded the crowd through a maze of backhoes, dump trucks and red clay.

Jackson is under a deadline to make a roughly 10-acre expansion come together by late spring.

“It’s up to me and my team to make sure it gets done and gets done on time,” Jackson said.

There’s a lot to get done.

The new water park is part of the three-year, $50 million expansion of the 40-year-old theme park.

The tour showed off new water slide sections still stacked up in a parking lot, a 400-gallon bucket that will tip and pour water on guests and lots of brightly-colored pipes to add sparkle to the water park, that will grow by 40 percent next year.

Carowinds spokeswoman Laresa Thompson said the expansion fits in with what’s happening in Charlotte.

“The Charlotte market is growing by leaps and bounds, and we are growing with the Charlotte market,” she said.

Thompson said they surveyed guests about what they most what they most wanted to see, to come up with some of the ideas to redo the former Boomerang Bay theme water park and create Carolina Harbor, which will have a more local feel.

When longtime amusement park operator Cedar Fair brought out Carowinds in 2006, the company quickly began looking at ways to not only boost attendance but create buzz.

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Jackson, who’s been there 30 years said it was like a new day.

“These people know what they’re doing,” he said. “We don’t have to explain everything. They actually get it.”

More than 300 construction workers are on site to turn a muddy pit into the park’s new, bigger wave pool. A nearby six-story tower will house slides called Blackbeard’s Revenge and Seaslide Splashworks will be a new play area for children.

The park will also have a new entrance and a new restaurant.

Carowinds does not discuss attendance figures but did say the park had a very good year in 2015.

Though they won’t give any hint, officials told Channel 9 that more new attractions are in the pipeline.

The water park is expected to open by Memorial Day weekend. Recent dry weather has put the major project back on schedule.

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