All the elements save two were on display Wednesday as Carowinds gave a behind-the-scenes tour of its newest attraction, a 25-acre complex called Carolina Harbor Waterpark.
There was section after section of pipe – from piles of black plastic drainage that soon will be buried to pipes painted in a carousel of colors that connect to make Seaside Splashworks, a multi-level children’s spray ground. It will have more than 80 play elements and a 423-gallon tipping bucket.
There was plenty of steel remaining to be installed. The vertical steel is in place for Blackbeard’s Revenge, a six-story attraction with three water slides. The horizontal steel comes next and the panels that form the slides.
“It’s a giant Erector Set,” said Steve Jackson, director of maintenance and construction for the park.
There’s still lots of dirt to move to create the Surf Club Harbor wave pool that will have 6-foot waves in 12 patterns, mimicking the surf of the Atlantic Ocean. So far, crews have moved 47,000 cubic yards of dirt, enough to fill 2,765 truckloads.
Lots of concrete work is left, too. Some needs to be removed and replaced by grass. Countless cubic yards need to be poured to create the pools and the concourses that link the attractions.
Lots of painting remains to be done. Six of the park’s existing water rides are being repainted, and all are being re-themed.
The only things missing are the sand and the water. When the park is ready, the water will come from the park’s existing 12-inch water main. While there’s a lot of new piping inside the park, no changes were made in its existing water service.
“It’s creating so much buzz,” said Jackson, who has worked at the park since 1985. His first job was fixing video games. After earning a degree in electrical engineering, Jackson came to the park full time and has spent the past 28 years in construction.
The planned completion date is May 1, giving Carowinds time to make the last-minute tweaks and have the complex inspected by state health officials. Traditionally, the water park opens after Memorial Day.
Carolina Harbor Waterpark is a makeover of the park’s Boomerang Bay. It will be 40 percent bigger, taking over space opened up by the demolition of the Thunder Road wooden roller coaster. Blackbeard’s Revenge will sit where the Thunder Road’s lift hill once rose.
The water park is part of Carowinds’ multi-year, $50 million-plus expansion plan. Last year’s new attraction was Fury 325, the world tallest and fastest gigacoaster. It was named the best new theme park ride for 2015 by Amusement Today, a monthly magazine that covers the industry.
The water park also expands on a theme Carowinds introduced last year – connecting its rides and food to South Carolina and North Carolina.
Last year, that meant more local food such as barbecue.
This year, it means the “heavily themed” water park, with attractions such as Blackbeard’s Revenge, Kiddy Hawk Cove and Myrtle Turtle Beach.
Carolina Harbor also will have its own specialty restaurant, Harbor House, located where the dueling cars of Thunder Road made the big turn, sending them from North Carolina back to the South Carolina station.
A new entrance off Carowinds Boulevard will offer direct access to Carolina Harbor.
John Taylor, vice president of marketing for the park, said the intent is to make Carowinds a destination stop.
With the water park expansion, he said, “you can’t do all the park in one day.”
What’s in a name?
Carowinds’ water park has been named and re-named numerous times since it opened in 1982:
▪ 1982 – Ocean Island
▪ 1989 – Riptide Reef
▪ 1997 – WaterWorks (expansion, doubling in size to 12 acres)
▪ 2006 – Boomerang Bay (expansion by nearly 25 percent)
▪ 2016 – Carolina Harbor (expansion by more than 40 percent)