Fury 325 Media Day Report
From announcement to track completion, and everywhere in between, Coaster101 has been on top of Fury 325 construction at Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte, NC. On Wednesday, March 25, (3/25, get it?) a mere 217 days after I attended the announcement for the United States’ tallest, fastest and longest giga coaster, I attended Fury 325’s Media Day.
The event started at 11:00am, and we (my younger brother JT and I) arrived at about 10:15am. There was something new about the park immediately. Carowinds recently finished a complete overhaul of the park’s entrance plaza, starting with a new parking gate, and including more than 900 parking spaces that are very close in proximity to Carowinds’ new entrance gate. The old plantation style buildings are gone, instead replaced by a more modern gate. Walking towards the entrance, park guests immediately get to interact with Fury 325, as the coaster flies over the path, into an overbanked turn, and then dives under the pedestrian bridge.
Left: Carowinds’ New Entrance Gate, Right: The Carolina Panthers “Purrcussion” Drumline
We checked in, and literally walked the red carpet into the park. The Peanuts characters were out taking photos with guests and the Carolina Panthers’ “Purrcussion” Drum Line were performing just inside the gate. Walking to the “Thrill Zone” section of Carowinds, Fury 325 was making its presence known throughout the park. The coaster’s 320′ drop is visible from many points in the park. Fury 325 t-shirts and merchandise had appeared in the storefront windows, and even the “Thrill Zone” midway games and Dippin’ Dots seemed to have caught a case of Fury Fever. The park’s new 300′ Tall Slingshot attraction has been completed as well, providing another sky-high thrill for Carowinds’ guests.
Left: The Classic Water Race game received a Fury Facelift. Right: Fury Freeze Dippin’ Dots
We mingled in the new Fury 325 area for about half an hour until the program and ribbon cutting started at 11:00am. Around the main stage area, there was a live DJ, and local sports mascots (The Panthers’ Sir Purr and MiLB AAA Charlotte Knights Mascot Homer) were mingling around and interacting with everyone in attendance. Fury 325’s gift shop, The Hive at 325, was open, and had some of the coolest theme park merchandise I had ever seen. (Once I process my annual pass, I’m sure my bank account will take a minor hit in that store.) For an area that formerly housed a Skycoaster and GoKart Track, it was great to see everything in area refreshed in celebration of Fury 325.
The Hive at 325 Gift Shop
Carowinds VP/GM Mike Fehnel took the stage, and began hyping Fury 325. He was interrupted via “FaceTime” congratulatory messages from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, and Charlotte Mayor Daniel Clodfelter. Fehnel thanked everyone he needed to thank — and made a point to note that the two construction companies involved in Fury 325’s construction were both local companies. From there, Fehnel went on to talk about all of the new and exciting things at Carowinds this season, and introduced Rob Decker, Carowinds Senior VP of Planning and Design.
Top Left: Carowinds VP/GM Mike Fehnel, Top Right: Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley. Bottom Left: North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. Bottom Right: Charlotte Mayor Daniel Clodfelter
Decker talked of the process involved in bringing Fury 325 to Carowinds. A quote of his that stuck out to me was: “The finish line for us is now the starting line for you.” I thought it was a perfect way to describe the day for everyone in attendance. Decker recognized several members of the crowd who were representatives for Bolliger and Mabillard, and noted that Fury 325 was B&M’s 96th coaster, and perhaps the “pinnacle” of their design to this point. I don’t disagree with him. After a video that highlighted the construction process of Fury 325, Decker took the stage again and hinted at Carowinds future. Though he wouldn’t announce the new attraction, he said that “In August of this year, we’ll announce our plans to make a big splash at Carowinds in 2016.” I don’t know about you, but splash makes me feel like water is involved in some capacity. Just a hunch.
Rob Decker, Carowinds SVP of Planning and Design.
Carowinds Director of Marketing John Taylor took the stage, and highlighted the Cam Newton Foundation, the benefactor of Carowinds’ “First Ride” Auction. The 96 seats on the first three trains of Fury 325 were auctioned and raised $18,320 for the Cam Newton Foundation. Cam Newton was not in attendance, because he was taking a final exam at Auburn University, where he is currently working to finish his undergraduate degree.
Carowinds PR Manager Laresa Thompson presents a check to the Cam Newton Foundation.
Armed with 3 pairs of Giant Scissors, Decker, Fehnel and Taylor sliced through the vinyl ribbon, and blue and purple confetti filled the air while pyrotechnics were fired from the roof of the Juke Box Diner and behind the stage. It was finally time to ride.
The Ribbon Cutting for Fury 325
I was ecstatic. It was going to be my 100th different roller coaster, which as small of a milestone as it is in the enthusiast community, was still a milestone nonetheless, and to set it on this record breaking roller coaster that sits in my “theme park backyard” added to my excitement. I dumped everything I had brought with me in a locker, and got in line. It wasn’t a long wait, only about 30 minutes or so. Anticipation was building. We got to the front of the line, and were placed in row 4, grabbing the two seats on the far side of the train. Buckled my seatbelt. Pulled the clamshell restraint down. It clicked once and locked. Let’s light this candle.
The Sun Came out later in the day.
I hear a number called over the loudspeaker. “44.” It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the 4th seat in the 4th row, which was presently occupied by me, was facing an issue. Apparently the clamshell restraint needed to click twice. We tried again. Sit straight up. All the way back. Try again. Nope. No go. My legs were too big by the slimmest of margins.
This wasn’t happening. I didn’t drive two and a half hours to Carowinds for this to happen today. I took the short “walk of shame” out of the exit. There was no use in arguing. My emotions were half angry, half sad, all frustrated. I tried to cool down and decided walk to the front of the park. Intimidator was running, but I had no desire to ride it. Same clamshell restraints, and I didn’t need to be told twice in 10 minutes that I couldn’t ride. I told my brother to go ride it, so at least someone could ride something today. (To his credit, when I exited Fury 325, he followed me and refused to ride, telling me “when we do things like this, we do them together.”) He rode Intimidator, and I was somewhere in the middle of the middle of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, writing half-snarky/half-depressed tweets from a bench near the replica Dale Earnhardt #3 racecar in front of the Intimidator.
Well, one size apparently doesn't fit all when roller coasters are concerned. Guess I'll try again later this year.
— Andrew Stilwell (@stilwell) March 25, 2015
About the same time that my brother was exiting Intimidator, a Carowinds supervisor came up to me on my bench. He saw the Coaster101 logo on my shirt.
“Coaster101.com, eh? I bet you really enjoyed Fury 325 then!”
I told him “I probably would have, had I gotten to ride.” I then explained what had happened. He seemed to be sympathetic towards my situation and told me to go back and try again.
“You came all this way. Try again. I’ve got a feeling if you go back, you’ll get on it.” It was the best advice I’d heard all day. (Unfortunately, I didn’t make note of this gentleman’s name. If anyone from Carowinds is reading this, and wants to help me figure out who that guy was, email me at [email protected] and I can do my best to provide more detail.)
We walked back to Fury 325, and I was doing my best not to get my hopes up. I put all my stuff in the locker again, this time, removing my wallet from my back pocket, and the pullover I was wearing. Anything I could to increase the space between me and the clamshell restraint. Walked through the queue again, and this time was assigned to Row 8, the last row of the train. I slid into the last seat in the row and did my best to pull the restraint down the two mandatory clicks.
“84” came over the loudspeaker. Not again. The ride op in charge of checking the seat belts came over, gave a little push, and along with me pushing on my own, the restraint clicked a second time and locked. My eyes turned to the operator in the booth in charge of the dispatch. He looked at his board, and gave us all a thumbs up. SUCCESS.
I was going to get to ride Fury 325. My 100th roller coaster. On media day. In the last row. My favorite spot on a roller coaster. I was pumped. The emotional switch flipped from upset to ecstatic. Let’s go.
Several of Fury 325’s Overbanked Turns
The train edged forward out of the station, straight into the 325′ tall lift hill. There were two things I noticed about this ascent. First, the chain moved the train at a faster pace than most lift hills of roller coasters I’ve been on. It didn’t feel as fast as Intimidator 305’s cable lift hill, but still moved at a pretty good pace. Second, it was remarkably quiet. Instead of a brief dip before the drop like Apollo’s Chariot, the lift hill transitioned directly into the 320′ first drop. There was a good amount of ejector air as we were pulled in the last row over the crest of the lift hill.
I know it’s brand new, but riding Fury 325 was glass-smooth. The transitions between the different elements were seamless, and even the overbanked turns felt amazing. The coaster flies over the entrance bridge with an overbanked turn facing towards the new parking lot, and then ascends into yet another overbanked turn before diving below the bridge. The park has installed plexiglass windows where the track goes under the bridge instead of a fence, a great touch.
Fury 325’s Dive Under The Park Entrance
It was after the tunnel under the bridge where my favorite (and I’m betting underrated by many people) elements of the ride occurred. Three smallish hills near the end of the rides cycle provide some of the best negative G-forces/ejector air time of any coaster I’ve ever ridden. The ride hit the brake run, and I put my fist in the air like I was Emilio Estevez at the end of “The Breakfast Club.” Obviously, there is the “newness” factor of the ride, both new to me, as well as new overall, but I’m comfortable in putting Fury 325 somewhere in my personal top 3, if not 1st overall. It had everything I love about roller coasters. The height. The speed. The smooth ride. The ejector air. What more could you want?
I was able to squeeze in (pun intended, maybe) another ride in row 5 on Fury 325 before we grabbed lunch. I love the back row experience though.
The park had set up a great buffet in Harmony Hall Marketplace, featuring several of Carowinds’ 45 new menu items from the different dining options in the park. We picked up a Fury 325 gift pack from the park, and headed home.
Again, if anyone from Carowinds is reading this, thank you for hosting us at the Fury 325 Media Day. It was an incredible experience, and congratulations on the opening of the United States’ tallest, fastest and longest Giga Coaster.
If you’re in the area, and even if you’re not, Carowinds is worth the special trip. Not just for Fury 325, but for the other 13 roller coasters (14 total, good for tied for 4th most at any park in the world) the incredible food, and southern hospitality that is demonstrated by all of Carowinds’ team. But if you’re only going for Fury 325, it will be worth the inevitable wait.
Are you planning on visiting Carowinds this season and riding Fury 325? Let us know in the comment section below!