20 in 2020: Carowinds’ Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator
As I’ve become more of a roller coaster “enthusiast” over the past several years, one of my biggest regrets is never taking the time to experience the Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator, which operated at my home park, Carowinds.
Flying Super Saturator, while only lasting a short eight seasons at Carowinds before meeting its eventual demise, is actually a perfect entry for our “20.20.2020” series. The coaster was actually a “first-of-its-kind” design from Utah-based ride designers Setpoint, and inspired similar designs from other manufacturers.
But let’s go back to the origins of this unique coaster. In 1985, a new attraction was added to Carowinds’ “Pirate Island.” Called Blackbeard’s Revenge, (not to be confused with the Carolina Harbor water slide of the same name) the attraction was a “Mad House” attraction from Arrow-Huss. It was a first at a theme park after operating the year prior at the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair. Riders sat on benches while the walls spun around them, creating quite the optical illusion.
Black & White Photos from Carowinds: Images of Modern America
After about 15 years, it was time for another “first-of-its-kind” attraction to occupy the space where Blackbeard’s Revenge stood.
“Blackbeard’s Revenge was a unique ride but eventually needed many upgrades,” said Steve Jackson, Director of Maintenance and Construction at Carowinds. “We really wanted to put another roller coaster in the park that did something unique and different.”
The park worked with Setpoint on the company’s first-ever complete roller coaster design, which would come to be named “Swing Thing.” Despite it being Setpoint’s first-ever roller coaster, Setpoint’s co-founders Joe Van Den Berghe and Joe Cornwell had experience in the realm, founding Setpoint, following several years working together at Arrow Dynamics.
“Joe [Cornwell] and I worked for Arrow for 7 years and did some of the tallest and fastest coasters at the time,” said Van Den Berghe. “Several others came with us when we created Setpoint so we had the skill set needed and developed the contacts that allowed us to succeed. We did several prototypes of sub-components up to and including a full scale section of track so we could actually experience part of the ride before it was installed at Carowinds.
“It was first coaster Setpoint did beginning at the concept phase through to completion and the unique degrees of freedom provided the flying experience that Carowinds was looking for,” he continued. “We worked collaboratively with the park to develop what we coined the ‘Swing Thing’ coaster. The vehicle also allows the seats to swing side to side and fore to aft. Nothing else on the market did that. The overall goal was to combine a roller coaster with a water park experience.”
This sketch from Setpoint shows the ability for the seats to swing side to side.
Bordering Carowinds’ water park, then known as Waterworks, the Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator opened on April 1, 2000 and was the first coaster to feature interactive water features. Not only were there multiple water elements on the ground and around the coaster track, riders had the opportunity to release four-gallon “flash floods” onto unsuspecting guests below.
“We worked with SCS Interactive to develop a method of filling the reservoirs while the guests were loading. It involved a big funnel on the vehicle and a down spout on the track that was triggered as soon as the vehicle came to a stop in the station,” said Van Den Berghe. “The water would go into the funnel and be distributed to individual tanks. One for each rider. I believe we had 4 gallons for each rider with a quick release valve that would release the water quickly.”
The coaster marked the first entrance of Nickelodeon theming on an attraction at the then Paramount-owned park, preceding Carowinds’ Nickelodeon Central area of the park by three years. Characters from classic Nickelodeon cartoons like Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys appeared throughout the attraction.
There were eight unique water elements associated with the Flying Super Saturator, and the descriptions come from a past version of Carowinds’ website.
- Spray Stations: Guests below have the power to saturate their neighbors. Some stations squirt water up to 50 ft.
- Water Cannons: These water blasters spray up to 40 ft. high.
- Geysers: See water gush to heights from 10 to 40 feet.
- Water Curtains: These sheaths of refreshing water are 10 ft. long.
- Giant Hose Nozzles: These giant hoses run water continuously, guaranteeing a thoroughly soaked rider.
- Gondola Blasters: It takes two to make these blasters flow: one to pump the water and another to aim nozzle. The more teamwork, the better the saturating potential.
- Pistons Blasters: These water play blasters require riders to pull back on a plunger that absorbs water and then shoots the H2O back out when pushed.
- Pump Blasters: When the lever is pressed, water jets out of the nozzle that’s aimed at the Flying Super Saturator track. How far the water reaches depends on how hard you press!
Flying Super Saturator was a great coaster for families, due to its low speeds (top speed of 30mph), low heights (42’ above the ground), and low height requirement (44”). It was also a fairly short ride experience, featuring 1,087 feet of track, and a ride duration of just one minute. However, with only four ride vehicles hosting four riders each, the ride had a lower than average capacity of 600 riders per hour.
The coaster earned the 2000 Innovation Award from the World Waterpark Association, which is awarded to individuals or parks for creativity in the development of new themes, facilities, programs, services or operational concepts in the water attractions industry.
Getting wet has never been something I particularly enjoyed at theme parks, so I never took a ride on the Flying Super Saturator. But according to Josh Herrington, Southeast Regional Representative for the American Coaster Enthusiasts, it was one of the most fun family coasters out there.
“The Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator at Paramount’s Carowinds was arguably one of the best family coasters around when it was built, Herrington told us. “While it wasn’t the biggest or fastest coaster, it was definitely the most fun due to the multiple water interactions between riders and guests in line.”
He also appreciated the levels of interactivity and respites from the hot Carolina summers on the midway.
“During my visits to the park I would always find myself spending lots of time manning the geyser buttons scattered around the ride area. If guests timed it just right, they could soak the riders by providing a wall of water they had to travel through,” he continued. “As payback, riders could always return the favor to unsuspecting guests by dumping ‘water bombs’ on those who happened to wander underneath one of the trains. These interactions always left guests either laughing in delight or screaming in shock, but on those hot Carolina days the dousing was almost always appreciated.”
Van Den Berghe has a favorite story about the former coaster as well.
“It was fun to see the riders hone their skills in hitting their intended targets with the water bomb,” he said. “A friend took his family to the park including his mother-in-law. When he rode the ride his mother-in-law happened to be walking under the ride track unaware of the ability the riders had to drop 4 gallons of water. He timed the bomb drop perfectly and drenched her.”
“He told me it was by far his favorite ride.”
Though it only operated at Carowinds for eight seasons, closing for good in 2008, Flying Super Saturator was either a direct predecessor, or spiritual influence to several other similar suspended “water” coasters.
In 2002, Roller Soaker, the second (and final) interactive water coaster manufactured by Setpoint, opened at Hersheypark. It was taller (70′ tall), nearly 30% longer than Flying Super Saturator, and featured more than twice as many ride vehicles. It operated until 2012.
Two similar coasters, the Caripro-manufactured Hydra Fighter II at Greensboro NC’s Wet N’ Wild Emerald Point water park (2001-2003), and Premier Rides’ Slippery When Wet/Soak’d at Hard Rock/Freestyle Music Park (2008-2009), operated in the region for a short time, before ultimately closing as well. These two coasters featured the ground and track based water-features, but lacked the “Flash Flood” water bomb feature from the Setpoint water coasters.
Following the closure of Geauga Lake in 2007, many of the park’s coasters were dispersed to other parks in the Cedar Fair family. Following the closure and dismantling of Flying Super Saturator in 2008, Geauga Lake’s former Vekoma Boomerang, known as Mind Eraser and Head Spin, was relocated to Carowinds, where it became Carolina Cobra, and later The Flying Cobras. The Boomerang sits on the land previously occupied by Flying Super Saturator.
Check out some off-ride footage from our friends at CoasterForce below!
Join us next week as we visit another coaster celebrating its 20th Anniversary!