Carowinds has put the wind into the faces of its guests – a sky-high, 30-mph wind.
That’s the fastest the new WindSeeker ride spins its riders – up to 64 people at a time – round and round, with the WindSeeker’s swings extending to a 45-degree angle.
From near the top of the 30-story attraction, riders get a panoramic view of South Carolina and North Carolina, amusement park officials said, and on a clear day you can see about 30 miles.
“The weightlessness is amazing, and the wind is strong,” said Jennifer Chapman of Charlotte.
Michelle Miller and Katelyn Goetz, also of Charlotte, were among the initial riders who had some fear before being pulled skyward. “I closed my eyes,” Miller said. Goetz said she was petrified.
But they were among the people clapping as the WindSeeker descended at the end of its three-minute ride.
The clapping and cheering were what Carowinds officials wanted to hear. It was the signal that shows the ride will be a success, they said.
The WindSeeker was unveiled today to reporters and invited park guests. Park employees got to ride it Thursday after the 301-foot tall ride passed its South Carolina inspection.
It’s the third consecutive year Carowinds has opened a major attraction.
In 2010 the $23 million Intimidator rollercoaster was unveiled. Last year Snoopy’s Starlight Spectacular – a million-dollar night-time walk-through light and sound show – opened.
WindSeeker is a $6.5 million investment and is made by Mondial, a Dutch company. The ride is located at the center of the park where there was once a man-made lake. Pilings were sunk 30 feet into the ground to support the ride and there is 18 feet of solid concrete.
“This ride is not going away,” said Bart Kinzel, the park’s general manager.
Kinzel anticipates WindSeeker will have 700 to 750 riders per hour at peak times. He said the ride should appeal to the thrill seekers who come for the roller coaster such as the Intimidator and those looking for a family experience.
“This is a ride everyone can ride,” Kinzel said.
Carowinds is the fourth Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. amusement park to install the WindSeeker. A fifth WindSeeker opens this year at the Kings Dominion amusement park outside Richmond, Va.
Carowinds opens its 2012 season at 10 a.m. Saturday and it is open each day for the first week in April, when most area schools are out for spring break.
From April 13 through most of May, it is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The park’s full-time schedule runs May 25 through Aug. 19.