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Six Flags South Carolina(Formerly Charleston Gardens Amusement Park)
The History of Six Flags South Carolina (Charleston Gardens Amusement Park)
The South Carolina Amusements Company, which was comprised of entrepreneur Michael May and his business partners, purchased over 200 acres of land outside of Charleston, South Carolina in 1973 to build a family-oriented amusement park that would serve as a regional entertainment destination. The land chosen for the park was a tree-filled hilly tract of land with several small and medium-sized lakes.
Construction quickly took off during the second half of the year. By January of 1974 a significant amount of the park's infrastructure was in place, laying the foundation for the park's line of attractions.
The park held its grand opening in 1975 and was met with a great response from guests. One of the park's most notable rides was Carolina Calamity, a rather small mine train coaster that utilized the park's hilly terrain. The ride was well-known for its halfway-through-the-ride lifthill and its grand finale drop under the station. Although only a handful of rides opened with the park, including Carolina Calamity, a train, log flume, dark ride, and several flat rides, the quaintness and classic charm of the amusement park attracted families from across the region. Guests were also treated to live entertainment at the park's mainstreet theater.
1976 brought Derecho, a massive wooden coaster that received its name from a powerful windstorm that nearly destroyed the support structure of the coaster during construction. The 10-story wooden monster put the amusement park on the map as not only a family amusement park but also a magnet for thrill seekers.
With the addition of the Atlantic Avenue midway in 1977, the park's paths made a complete "loop." The new midway included a new train station, as well as new shops and restaurants. However, the lack of a new marketable attraction hurt the park, and with falling attendance numbers, Michael May resigned from his position as the park's general manager. Days before the park was to be sold piece-by-piece at an auction, Funtime Parks, Inc. (Geauga Lake) purchased the failing park.
Funtime Parks replace The Great Twist with The Great Swings in 1978. The beautiful, iconic attraction brought families back to the park. However, new General Manager Joseph Reynolds realized that more was needed to make the amusement park sustainable.
In 1979, South Carolina experienced a Heatwave... a Schwrazkopf shuttle loop coaster. Guests were amazed at the ride's then-unique 360 degree vertical loop. The coaster drew large crowds, once again placing the park on thrill seekers' maps.
1980 saw the addition of Gully River Rapids, a large river rapids attraction that left riders soaked beyond belief. The ride was one of the first of its kind, again drawing crowds from across the region to ride the unique attraction.
Gully Gulch Grill, the park's then-largest restaurant, opened in 1981, replacing the park's iconic SkyWheel attraction.
However, SkyWheel would not disappear forever. The ride reopened in 1982 as a part of the Harbortown expansion. The area, themed to a beach town, included SkyWheel and an antique cars ride, and increased the size of the park by 25 percent.
No new attractions opened in 1983. Although, many general improvements were made at the park, including expanded retail and dining options.
1984, the park's tenth season, brought the addition of Vulture, a large Arrow suspended coaster. Standing over 120 over the park and travelling at speeds of 55 mph, Vulture utilized the side of a hill to create an exhilarating, close-to-the-ground ride experience. Although with the addition of Vulture came the closure of Carolina Calamity. The park's first coaster closed for good at the end of the 1984 season.
Gardenhill Pass, the largest addition in the park's history, opened in 1985. This area included a large outdoor theater and a swan boating area. The area also connected Harbortown with the park's mainstreet area.
In 1986, Vortex opened in Gardenhill Pass, expanding the lineup of thrill rides.
The 1987 season was marked by a new parking tram system, along with many general park improvements.
Emerald Bay, a new park area situated around a large lake which included the Millipede family rollercoaster and Washout, opened in 1988.
Funtime Parks, Inc. put Charleston Gardens up for sale before the 1989 season, the park's 15th season.. The new Magic Carpet ride was hardly marketable and so the park continued to see mediocre attendance numbers. Joseph Reynolds was transferred to another FPI park and the park's future was left uncertain as FPI sought out a new owner.
However, the end of the 1989 season brought a new worry: Hurricane Hugo. The Category 4 storm struck Charleston on September 22 of 1989. The park and city were damaged heavily, some areas beyond recognition. Joe Martin joined the Charleston Gardens saga in 1992 as a local journalist assigned to the story of the abandoned amusement park. The city purchased the park in early 1992. The city began clearing out heavily-damaged areas of the park as they sought out a new owner. Several rides were removed including the iconic SkyWheel.
On November 1st of 1992, Six Flags announced that they had purchased the park and that it would reopen in 1994 as Six Flags South Carolina, over four years since Hugo had struck. The park announced that Batman: The Ride would be part of a $30 million investment in the park, along with extensive ride and building repairs. The park reopened to record-setting crowds.
Tidal Wave, a Premier hybrid splash boats ride opened in 1995.
Monster Mash Hotel closed at the end of the 1995 season to make way for Scooby Doo and the Mystery Mansion dark ride which opened the following year in 1996.
The park expanded the Gotham Backlot area in 1997 with two new thrill rides, a food kiosk, and a new outdoor theater showing a Batman stunt show. Viper (Heatwave) closed in the middle of the season.
In 1998, Six Flags South Carolina opened Undertaker, the world's first floorless coaster. The ride occupied the land that was once home to Viper (Heatwave). The compact coaster drastically changed the park's skyline.
Parachute was removed in early 1999 to make way for Rebellion, a 260 foot tall drop tower, that dominated the skies at Six Flags South Carolina. The ride was one of the most terrifying ride at the park, drawing riders from all across the region. Joe Martin was let go from his position with the local newspaper and moved to Dallas in late 1999.
Thirteen-year-old Tommy Powers began posting Six Flags South Carolina updates on his GeoCities website in early 2000. This coincided with the announcement of Superman: Ride of Steel, a 210 foot tall hypercoaster that would change Six Flags South Carolina forever. The coaster quickly became a favorite with guests, and it topped many coaster enthusiasts' top ten lists. This Superman: Ride of Steel differed from its cousins in that it utilized the park's hilly terrain. RoadRunner, originally opened as Millipede, closed in late 2000.
Vertical Velocity, the park's first launched coaster since Viper (Heatwave), opened in 2001 to great reviews. The 180-foot-tall inverted impulse coaster changed the skyline of the park once again. Its two towers intimidated guests as they entered the park.
2002 finally brought a much-needed children's area to Six Flags South Carolina. Bugs Bunny National Park was home to a plethora of rides for children and famillies alike and was one of the largest expansions in the park's history. Several rides, shows, and interactive play structures were the main draws of this new area. The park mourned the death of Michael May, one of the park's original founders, in mid-2002.
SkyCoaster opened in 2003 as an upcharge attraction. The ride was located in a new area of the park, adjacent to the also new-for-2003 Picnic Grove group catering facility. The ride was met with mixed reviews due to its extra fee. Vulture closed halfway through the end of the 2003 season. Joseph Reynolds also retired after the 2003 season concluded. Indigo Plunge, the park's log flume, was renamed Deer Park Plunge.
Bugs Bunny National Park expanded in 2004 with the addition of a new ride and the Character Cafe, an interactive eatery. Scrambler was relocated to the area and renamed Sylvester's Spin.
Green Falcon, a large B&M flying coaster, opened in 2005 as Vulture's replacement. The coaster utilized the hillside terrain and flew riders at speeds of up to 57 mph and climbed to heights of 130 feet. The unique coaster offered a new style of thrill for guests at Six Flags South Carolina.
SkyCoaster did not return for the 2006 season. Despite Six Flags' financial woes, the park debuted Firebomb, an S&S SkySwat in 2006. The park also celebrated Derecho's 30th anniversary.
2007 was a quiet year at Six Flags South Carolina. Other than Garden Grill being converted into a Johnny Rocket's restaurant, no big changes were made to the park. The Summer Concert Series brought well-known musical acts to the Green Pearl Theater during the summer months.
Tony Hawk's Big Spin opened in 2008 and was a great coaster for the entire family to ride. An Xtreme Trampoline ride also opened near the new coaster.
Superman: Ride of Steel was transformed into Bizarro for the 2009 season. On top of the new purple and blue color scheme, fire and other special effects were added to enhance the ride experience.
Buccaneer Battle, an interactive water ride, replaced Deer Park Plunge for the 2010 season. Riders boarded large boats that travelled slowly through a "lagoon", passing various targets (and other guests) that riders could soak with their on-board water guns.
It looks as though Six Flags South Carolina has a bright future ahead. The park has been cleared to construct a 105-foot-tall Great Coasters International wooden coaster for the 2011 season, and the park is already clearing land for a rumored waterpark that will open adjacent to the amusement park in 2012. The area surrounding the park is drawing new businesses, including resort hotels, further establishing Six Flags South Carolina as a resort destination.
Six Flags South Carolina/Charleston Gardens Amusement Park Timeline
Charleston Gardens Amusement Park
1975 - Park Opens 1976 - Derecho 1977 - Atlantic Avenue midway 1978 - The Great Swings 1979 - Heatwave 1980 - Gully River Rapids 1981 - Gully Gulch Grill 1982 - Harbortown (SkyWheel & Harbortown Drive) 1983 - General Park Improvements 1984 - Vulture 1985 - Gardenhill Pass (Green Pearl Theater & Swan Lake Boats) 1986 - Vortex 1987 - Tram System & Parking Improvements 1988 - Emerald Bay (Millipede & Washout) 1989 - The Magic Carpet
Six Flags South Carolina
1994 - Batman: The Ride 1995 - Tidal Wave 1996 - Scooby Doo and the Mystery Mansion 1997 - Gotham Backlot Expansion 1998 - Undertaker 1999 - Rebellion 2000 - Superman: Ride of Steel 2001 - Vertical Velocity 2002 - Bugs Bunny National Park, Phase I 2003 - Skycoaster & Picnic Pavillion 2004 - Bugs Bunny National Park, Phase II 2005 - Green Falcon 2006 - Firebomb 2007 - Johnny Rocket's 2008 - Tony Hawk's Big Spin 2009 - Bizarro 2010 - Buccaneer Battle 2011 - GCI Wooden Coaster 2012 - Hurricane Harbor?
Six Flags South Carolina Attractions, Past and Present
Hello, My name is Michael May. I have worked in the amusements industry for almost twenty years. I have had the opportunity to be a part of a project that some of my partners and I have been working on for years. Now it seems to be finally coming together. I received this memo earlier today:
SinceYOUhave been elected to the board of overseers, what do you think of the Charleston, South Carolina area? Take a trip to your library and see what you think of the place. I myself am quite fond of the area as I do live right outside of the city. It really is a beautiful place.
I decided to go and take a look at the land myself. I was astonished when I arrived. The area is very beautiful. Living in this area, I've never thought to pay close attention to this land, is somewhat off the beaten path, but it is still close to the city. It is very likely that Charleston Gardens Amusement Park will be built here soon.
The pond near the front of the plot is very peaceful.
I spent most of the day here. I have a feeling I'll be seeing more of this land soon.
Hello again! It is late fall here in Charleston and work is well underway for our Charleston Gardens Amusement Park. Countless hours of labor have already been put in and there's still alot of work left to do! However, we fully intend on opening March 1st, 1975! - Michael May
Here is a photograph I took earlier today. You can see that the parking lot is close to being finished.
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