Farewell, Thunder Road!
Starting this weekend, Carowinds guests will notice something different in the County Fair section of the park: they can no longer ride Thunder Road. It’s been a great run for nearly four decades for the wooden roller coaster, which ran to the public for the last time this past Sunday. The coaster was unique in the fact that the coaster trains raced from South Carolina to North Carolina to see which train could get back to the loading station first. If the coaster looks really familiar to Kings Island fans, that’s because the ride has the same premise as The Racer in the Coney Mall section, which opened in 1972. Like The Racer, Thunder Road had one train turned backwards during it’s history, which was a nice way to spice up a classic. The Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster-manufactured ride was named after the 1958 movie “Thunder Road”, got up to speeds of 50 MPH and cost $1.6 million to build. The North Carolina train was the blue one and the South Carolina train was gray; the lift hill was 93 feet high and there was 500,000 feet of treated wood. There were many fans that waited in line for their last chance to take a spin on the Road during it’s final hours of existence; although the lines haven’t always stayed that busy in recent seasons.
It has been noted that during the Paramount Parks era, a lot of different characteristics of the ride were removed, such as the memorabilia and even the air-conditioning. While the Cedar Fair era has been good on ensuring classic rides are maintained, the 39 year old coaster was destined to be a tombstone marker during SCarowinds in the fall. With this season’s debut of Fury 325, that set the tone for Carowinds’ commitment to keeping up with theme park fan’s need for thrill. When Carowinds released the epic POV for Fury 325, numerous national outlets like Entertainment Tonight and USA Today showed the video to their national audience. Carowinds has also been a focus of upgrades from Cedar Fair over the last few years to help bring more pride and guests to the park and the efforts look to be paying off. A great upside to Thunder Road coming down is what the future will hold for the plot of land that it sits on for more enjoyment.
In the happy photo above, you see Carowinds General Manager Mike Fehnel (left) taking one of the last spins on Thunder Road with The Herald Business Editor Don Worthington (Right). When Worthington was talking with Fehnel about what to expect in 2016, Mike was mum with the details but the announcement is set to come this month. The Herald article, and expectations from fans, suggest to expect something “wet”, indicating that the next ride on the land would be an expansion of their water park. Today, Carowinds posted the below picture on their Facebook page with the caption:
Water you doing 8/27? #WaterYouDoing2016
As with anything in the industry, ridership and the cost of maintenance are weighed out when deciding the next latest & greatest attractions. We’ll be excited to see how Cedar Fair keeps the ball rolling with Carowinds’ changes and additions to further enrich the history of the park. In the meantime, help celebrate the new era of Carowinds by watching their Fury 325 one-hour special airing tomorrow night, August 2nd at 10 PM EST, on the Travel Channel. There’s great excitement about the new giga-coaster that the park opened this season and they are deserving of the national attention they’ve captured. Here’s to more good things in the new additions ahead for Carowinds!
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