At times during his nearly 15-year quest to find a carousel for Kannapolis, Gary Mills may have felt like he was going around in circles.
No more. A double-decker carousel bound for Kannapolis’ Village Park will give the city what Mills said will be a singular distinction: the only one in North Carolina.
The director of the city’s parks and recreation department said after checking with state officials, “as far as we can tell, it will be the only double-decker carousel in the state.” The 1989 Bertazzon Carousel – manufactured in Italy and featuring 570 lights, Brazilian oak decking and hand-painted Venetian murals – is scheduled to open to the public sometime next year. The city recently arranged to buy it from a mall outside St. Louis for $228,000.
Mills’ pursuit is part of Kannapolis’ emphasis on becoming a regional recreation destination. Adding a carousel has been part of the city’s master plan since 2001.
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“We’re trying to promote healthy living in Kannapolis,” said Annette Privette Keller, the city’s director of communications. “We want people to get out and try parks and get out on our greenways and enjoy the experience of being healthy.
“You can come to a park and ride a train, ride a carousel, walk a greenway, do exercise, do a Zumba class. You can go to a painting class. You can go play baseball. We have a park with a Putt-Putt course. For a dollar on our Rotary Express Train, you can ride around the park, go to a shelter and have a picnic, walk on the greenway, ride your bicycle.”
Mills said the city is still deciding on operating hours for the carousel, which will hold 68 people and is handicap-accessible. “It’ll run basically the same operating hours as our Rotary Express Train. We’ll try to run it during Christmas when we do our celebration of lights.”
The 30-foot-tall carousel has been dismantled to be sent to be refurbished, he said. Once assembled, it will be housed in some kind of an enclosed structure to protect its components, panels and structure from the elements.
“The question will be whether it’s in a constantly enclosed structure or whether it will be a covered structure that’s rolled outdoors,” he said. “We’ll decide that during the design process.”
The $228,000 price tag includes shipping and installation. “We understand that if we bought this kind of structure brand-new, it would be double the price,” Keller said. “It runs very well and is very well maintained. And of course, it will be insured.”
Mills said he doesn’t expect any major safety issues. “I talked with the state ride amusement division of the North Carolina Department of Labor that oversees these rides’ inspections to see if there was anything we needed to do, safety wise. … What we needed to do was fairly basic, including a 5-foot clearance all the way around the carousel. But there were no issues with the overall design of it.”
Operation of the carousel will cost an estimated $25,000-$28,000 a year, he said. “Most of that would be manpower, but there would be significant utility costs with all the lights. Hopefully we can find a good LED manufacturer that’ll cut us a deal.”
Mills, who grew up in Raleigh and loved Pullen Park with its carousel and train, was determined to find a similar attraction for Kannapolis.
“I put some feelers out there with people I’ve worked with in the past who dealt with carousels, plus a little bit of cross-searching on the Internet. I found a broker who represents a lot of amusement rides that are available and it started from there.”
Kannapolis recently completed a parks and recreation master plan for the city that calls for additional parks, greenways and athletic fields among other improvements.
Reid Creager is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.