FORT MILL — Carowinds will soon offer a "flying machine" that will send riders soaring 300 feet in the air.
Called WindSeeker, the ride will open in spring 2012 and will be the tallest attraction at Carowinds, park officials announced Wednesday.
Sitting in swings with legs dangling, riders will spin around the 301-foot tower, as the ride rises and spins faster and faster, reaching 30 mph at the top.
The ride will seat 64 passengers secured in their seats with harnesses. LEDs and floodlights projecting a kaleidoscope of colors will light up the attraction at night.
It will offer a "true sensation of flying and weightlessness, in addition to a great view of the Charlotte region," said John Taylor, Carowinds director of marketing.
The $6.5-million attraction will bring the total investment Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. has made in Carowinds to $51.5 million since it acquired the park in 2006.
In 2009, Carowinds announced The Intimidator for thrill seekers. It's "the tallest, fastest, longest coaster in the Southeast," Taylor said. Most recently, the park opened Snoopy's Starlight Spectacular, an attraction that aims to appeal to families.
WindSeeker will provide another option for both thrill-seekers and families, he said.
"This is truly a 'wow' moment" for North and South Carolina, said Duane Parrish, the director of the S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism division.
Not only the height of the ride but also the investment is important, Parrish said.
"That's a tremendous investment in a difficult economic time," one that will help benefit economic development and tourism in the region, Parrish said.
Bart Kinzel, Carowinds' vice president and general manager, said the park has weathered the economy well. Though he said he couldn't release attendance numbers, he said they've met expectations.
Bennish Brown, executive director for York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the new attraction will give York County "bragging rights" and will serve as a catalyst for economic development and tourism.
"Bragging rights tied to an unforgettable experience" will help the region compete for visitors, he said.
While Carowinds has always been "first-class," Brown said, "now it has blasted beyond the solar system of greatness with the WindSeeker."
Just how will the WindSeeker stack up to other Carowinds attractions?
The ride will be 69 feet taller than The Intimidator roller coaster and 40 feet taller than Sky Tower, currently the tallest park attraction.
"The sense of soaring 30 stories in the air will be both exhilarating and breathtaking at the same time," Kinzel said.
Kinzel's 16-year-old son Brad Kinzel - a "roller coaster enthusiast," as he calls himself - rode the WindSeeker at another Cedar Fair park.
"I didn't really think much of it" at first, he said, "because I've been riding rides all my life."
But when ascending the tower, he started getting nervous because "it felt like we were just going up and up and up," and he couldn't see how high he was going to go.
"That's when it started getting to me," he said. But once on top Kinzel said it was "very relaxing."
WindSeeker will be located near the entrance of Snoopy's Starlight Spectacular. A portion of the lake near the Nighthawk roller coaster will be filled in to accommodate the ride.
Officials also said the park will make other changes, including adding more trees, shade and viewing areas where guests can sit and watch the rides.
Promotional video provided by Carowinds:
Herald video from the announcement:
Jamie Self 803-329-4062