General Carowinds discussion
Of course Carowinds is a LONG way from even needing something like a parking deck. Talk about cost prohibitive. If they're worried about a couple of million on an interstate sign, they CERTAINLY aren't going to pour $10 million or more into an unneeded parking structure.

What they DO need is to mill and repave the existing lot. (In the same vein as the new lot in front of the entrance with islands and lights)

AND...If they're going to take more of the lot for park space in the near future like they did with Intimidator, go ahead and take that space out so that you're not tearing up pavement that is only a couple of years old down the road. Leave it as "green space" for now until time for its use.
I live in Charlotte, so it'll never be a destination park. Ha.

But if I didn't live here...

The original post asking the question holds the answer. If Carowinds could build out the park to truly compete with Disney, Universal, or Cedar Point; only then would anybody consider it a destination park. That's a whole lot of building, improving, and adding a large variety of attractions. Themeing is just the glitter scattered on top of all that. The variety of attractions would need to dramatically increase, not just increase the numbers of the same things they already have (rides and slides). To me, there would be no other way. The park would need to need to more than double in size, including ripping out the amphitheater and putting something big in its place, that people will actually use and enjoy daily.

And there lies the problem. It just doesn't make sense for a park with such a small operating season (full-time only in summer, weekends in the spring and fall). There is no other reason for people to want to vacation along a slab of interstate at the NC/SC border. There is no beach. There are no mountains. There is no lake. The park would have to be truly gigantic, and a one-of-a-kind experience. Right now, there's more than a dozen (dozens?) parks comparable to Carowinds in the United States/Canada. It'll never make sense for people to travel a great distance to Carowinds when there is an almost identical experience far closer to where they live.

For example. If Carowinds was on Myrtle Beach? It'd make sense to think about growing it that big and greatly increasing the number of operating days per year. People would want to travel there.

So to make a silly answer to the question; moving the whole park to an actual area I would want to vacation (and then massively expanding it) would be what would make it a destination park to me.
The park will simply never be a Universal or Disney. Even growing into a Cedar Point-level Park is unattainable in the foreseeable future. I don’t think many are expecting that though. Carowinds has more potential as a regional destination, a large park along the lines of Kings Island, Hersheypark, or Dollywood.
I think it’s beyond silly to say that the only way Carowinds can become a destination park is for it to be located in a tourist city. You have to remember that parks themselves can be major tourist draws. Heck, Orlando was nothing but swampland before amusement parks came on the scene. Sandusky hasn’t got a single thing to offer the world except for Cedar Point and yet millions of people (including the GP) still travel from all over to go there.

A park can be a destination of its own, whether it’s surrounding area is a tourist magnet or not. Also being located in a tourist city doesn’t guarantee success. Of the three parks that have existed in Myrtle Beach, only one is left.
There is no park that on its own merit is a tourist destination.

Orlando started with MK, yes, and that’s different. Charlotte doesn’t have a Disney park. Disney parks are built in areas where weather accommodates year round operations or in the case of Asia, where the population supports it. Orlando now is a city full of touristy things.

Cedar Point isn’t the only draw to that area of Ohio. There’s a big gigantic lake there that’s been pulling in tourists for a hundred years, even before the park was there. The park was built BECAUSE of the beaches. Oh, also, CP pulls from Cleveland, Columbus, Cindy, Detroit, Pittsburg.

According to CF themselves, Carowinds pulls from the triangle and Charleston. Not nearly as much population as CP.

Then there’s SoCal, which is basically Orlando the prequel.

Carowinds is ran and planned for as a regional theme park that gets a bump from its location. That’s directly from the park and company. They’re now trying to turn it into a two day regional park, which was their justification for the hotel.

Trust, the company isn’t trying to turn the area into much more than a two day destination. Bring that it’s closest park competition is at least four hours in any direction, they’re doing this donas not to leave money on the table. Not to make Carowinds a destination.

I would guarantee if you look at the numbers, 80 or more percent of attendance lives two or less hours from the park. Beyond that they’re not likely to fight for more because it’s not going to be worth the time.

The two parks on the chain that could be argued as destination parks are CP and Knotts. And both are surrounded by more than just the rides to do. CP has a separate water park, the beach, and that area supports tourism not even connected to CP such as Put In Bay, etc. Knotts is in LA metro.
A destination CITY has been thought to be a detractor to a park like Carowinds. Six Flags was looking into buying the Air Force Base land to put a Six Flags at Myrtle Beach. They didn't because the thought was that there was so much ELSE to do, that the park would be an afterthought and would suffer. Guess what?.. that's exactly what happened to Hard Rock Park.
I think they made a HUGE mistake making the Pavilion Park single price admission. They killed their own business which, at it's location, was primarily tourist walk throughs off the beach who decided on a whim to purchase a ride ticket. (They had the pay-one-price bracelets for those that wanted a full day.) It was a place to hang-out. No one wants to pay a ton of money just to "hang-out".
I hope that Family Kingdom keeps their price format the way it is. I don't want to see it suffer the same fate. ... and I want to get my $4.75 ride on Swamp Fox every year.

All of that said, I doubt Carowinds will be a true "Destination Park". Although I do think it will (and already has in some respects with Fury 325) attract visitors from far and wide. Maybe it's because I live 90 minutes away but I don't see people booking their summer vacations to Carowinds. Agree or disagree... those are my thoughts.
^ In 2005, you could buy tickets at Pavilion. 2006 was the Farewell Season which was planned ahead of time. I am pretty they did away with tickets and went to wristbands only but if I am correct you could still walk in for free.
Pavilion closed because B&C wanted to get out of a seasonal park.
Charlotte has over 25 million tourists visits a year. Carowinds’ annual attendance eclipses Dollywood, SFOG, Hersheypark, and every other CF park excluding Canada’s Wonderland, Cedar Point, King’s Island, and Knott’s, I think it’s more than evident Carowinds is a destination in itself and CF realizes that, hence nearly 7 years of continuous expansion.

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