|Previously known as Paramount's Carowinds (1993–2006)|
|Location||Charlotte, North Carolina, United States|
|Opened||March 31, 1973|
|General manager||Manny Gonzalez|
|Slogan||"Where The Carolinas Come Together"|
|Area||407 acres (1.65 km2)|
Carowinds is a 407-acre (165 ha) amusement park located adjacent to Interstate 77 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The park straddles the North Carolina-South Carolina state line, with a portion of the park located in Fort Mill, South Carolina. However, it has an official Charlotte address, and its business offices are located on the Charlotte side of the park. The park opened on March 31, 1973, at a cost of $70 million. It is the result of a four-year planning period spearheaded by Charlotte businessman Earl Patterson Hall. Owned and operated by Cedar Fair, Carowinds also features a 27-acre (11 ha) water park, Carolina Harbor, which is included with park admission. The park has a Halloween event called SCarowinds and a winter event called WinterFest.
Carowinds was announced on October 10, 1969, and originally planned on being a large resort which would include a theme park, hotels, a shopping center, a golf course, and an NFL stadium. The name Carowinds was conceived from the park's original theme of the history and culture of the Carolinas, and is a portmanteau of Carolina and winds, in reference to the winds that blow across the two states. Ground was broken on May 1, 1970, with a planned opening date in April 1972. After numerous construction delays due to weather, the park eventually opened on March 31, 1973 under the ownership of the Carowinds Corporation, a consortium of local investors headed by Hall. The first season brought in over 1.2 million visitors, but attendance at Carowinds was curtailed by the 1973 oil crisis, and plans for the proposed resort were put on hold. Sagging attendance and mounting debt forced Carowinds Corporation to merge with Taft Broadcasting in early 1975.
Taft Broadcasting and KECO (1975–1992)
Taft originally ran the park through Family Leisure Centers, a joint venture between Taft and Top Value Enterprises. It was later transferred to a wholly-owned Taft subsidiary, Kings Entertainment Company. Taft Broadcasting brought new life to the park with its Hanna-Barbera characters and several rides aimed to appeal to younger guests. Carowinds added its second roller coaster, and first wooden coaster, with the addition of Scooby-Doo in 1975. The Wagon Wheel and The Waltzer flat rides were also added to the park. A small carousel was added to the Carolina Crossroads area. In 1976, Carowinds opened Thunder Road, a Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters racing wooden coaster designed by Curtis D. Summers. It was the largest and most expensive ride built in Carowinds' short three years of existence, at a cost of $1.6 million. The trains were relocated from the defunct Jetstream roller coaster at Chicago's Riverview Park. White Lightnin', a Schwarzkopf launched shuttle roller coaster, opened in 1977. The Witchdoctor was relocated to Pirate Island and renamed Black Widow. The Waltzer is removed after a year of operation and Wagon Wheel is moved into its place. Trams are added to the parking lot. In 1979, a $3 million expansion adds the County Fair area, which contains four new rides. Additionally, a 1923 antique carousel built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company is added to The Land of Hanna-Barbera.
The Carolina Cyclone was added in 1980 as the first roller coaster in the world to feature four inversions. Thunder Road received new Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters trains. The original themed trains were destroyed after causing damage to the tracks. Rip Roarin' Rapids, a water rapids ride, opens in 1981. In 1982, Ocean Island opens as a separately ticketed attraction between Thunder Road and the White Lightnin' roller coasters. The water park was not owned by Carowinds, and included a 700,000-gallon, 25,500 square foot wave pool that featured waves reaching heights of five feet. The complex also featured other standard water park amenities including picnic and sunbathing areas, shower and changing facilities, a snack bar, game room, raft rentals and a gift shop. Oaken Bucket was removed. The Heritage Theater was converted into an arcade. In 1984, Smurf Island opens on a 1.3 acre island surrounded by the Carolina Sternwheeler river boat. The Flying Dutchman is removed and the Paladium is expanded. Blackbeard's Revenge, a motion simulator, is added in 1985.
In 1986, County Fair is renovated and Frenzoid, a 360-degree looping Viking ship, is added to the area. In 1987, Carowinds purchases Ocean Island. Vintage Jalopies is removed and the Panorama Vision theater is converted to an arcade. The following year, White Lightnin' is removed due to continuous maintenance downtime. The Balloon Race flat ride and WhiteWater Falls, a 45 foot tall water attraction is added. In 1989, Ocean Island is renamed to RipTide Reef and expanded to over 6 acres on the land previously occupied by White Lightnin'. Carowinds became the first amusement park in the United States to include a full water park with admission. Black Widow is removed the same year.
In 1990, Gauntlet, a prototype thrill ride, was added to the park. The following year, the Paladium becomes a stand-alone concert facility- separate from the theme park with an expanded seating capacity of 13,000 after a $4 million renovation. In 1992, Kings Entertainment Company was acquired by Paramount Communications and Paramount Parks was formed, with the corporate headquarters a few miles away from the park in Charlotte. The same year, Carowinds introduces the Vortex stand-up roller coaster.
Paramount era (1993–2005)
The park's name was changed to Paramount's Carowinds in 1993. Movies and television shows from various Paramount Pictures were introduced into the park, including Days of Thunder. The Paramount Walk of Fame was constructed on the path from the park's main entrance to the park's central hub. In 1994, Wayne's World, a new three acre themed area that re-creates the Hollywood set popularized in the Paramount motion picture of the same name, is added to the northwestern corner of the park with the Hurler roller coaster as its centerpiece.
In 1995, Animation Station introduces an interactive experience for kids featuring The Power Station, a three-story climbing structure, and Kids' Studio, an outdoor amphitheater for children's shows. On June 30 of the same year, a skycoaster ride called Skycoaster opened in the Wayne's World section. Drop Zone: Stunt Tower was also added in 1996 in the same area. The park hosted 1.8 million visitors, making it one of the largest tourist attractions in the Carolinas. In 1997, to celebrate the park's 25th anniversary, RipTide Reef is expanded into WaterWorks, doubling its size to include 12 acres at a cost of $7.5 million. In 1998, ZOOM ZONE opens in Animation Station. The expansion adds three new attractions: Taxi Jam, Chopper Chase and Road Rally and increases the size of the area by 3.5 acres. The addition of Top Gun: The Jet Coaster in 1999 became the single-largest investment in the park's history at a cost of $10.5 million.
In 2000, The Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator takes riders along a 1,087-foot suspended track while dodging a gauntlet of gushing geysers and rain curtains and was the first of its kind roller coaster in the world. SCarowinds, the park's annual Halloween event, is introduced for the first time in October. In 2001, the park introduced three new attractions including Scooby-Doo's Haunted Mansion, an interactive ghost-busting experience through the former Harmony Hall, Pipeline Peak, the world's tallest enclosed body slide and increases the size of WaterWorks to 13 acres, and the park's first 3-D attraction, 7th Portal. Plantation Square, the park's entrance area, is remodeled into Paramount Plaza. The Wayne's World theming is removed and the area is converted to Action Zone. The following year saw the addition of Carolina Boardwalk, a newly-themed area that takes guests on a walk through of the famous beaches of the Carolinas. Included in this area is the parks 11th roller coaster, Ricochet. After the success of Flying Ace Aerial Chase at sister park Kings Island, Paramount decided to build a clone at Carowinds in 2003 as part of the Happy Land of Hanna Barbera's transition into Nickelodeon Central. In 2004, Nighthawk (then known as Stealth) was relocated from California's Great America and opened as BORG Assimilator in the location previously home to Smurf Island. Nickelodeon Central was expanded in 2005. On January 27, 2006, the Dayton Daily News reported that CBS, owner of Paramount Parks, was interested in selling all of its theme parks, including Carowinds. On June 30, 2006, Cedar Fair acquired all of the Paramount Parks, including Carowinds.
Cedar Fair era (2006–present)
Although Cedar Fair continued to use the Paramount's Carowinds name through the remainder of the 2006 season, it began to phase out the Paramount name in press releases, the park website, and signage within the park. All references to Paramount-owned movies were removed immediately, with the exception of Nickelodeon Central, as Cedar Fair does not own the rights to use Paramount property. Several rides were renamed and rethemed, including BORG Assimilator (now known as Nighthawk), Drop Zone: Stunt Tower (now known as Drop Tower), and Top Gun: The Jet Coaster (now known as Afterburn). WaterWorks was expanded by four additional acres and the name was changed to Boomerang Bay in 2006. The addition of a heated lagoon and a children's water slide were among the changes made to the existing water park.
In January 2007, a new logo was unveiled featuring the trademark Cedar Fair flag on the letter I in the Carowinds name, removing Paramount altogether. The Carolina Skytower was repainted to feature the colors of the American flag. In 2008, a second, larger wave pool was added to Boomerang Bay due to increased popularity. Yo-Yo, a flat ride from Carowinds' former sister park Geauga Lake, was also added to the park. The Nickelodeon Flying Super Saturator is closed and removed. The following year, Carolina Cobra was also relocated from Geauga Lake in the spot formerly home to the Flying Super Saturator and includes new trains. Multiple pathways were repaved and the landscaping around the park was also improved. Nighthawk is repainted from black and green to yellow and blue. It is announced that the Powder Keg Log Flume located near the front of the park would be removed for future development.
In 2010, Intimidator, a 232-foot tall roller coaster, opened in the space formerly occupied by the Powder Keg Log Flume. A portion of the parking lot is re-configured to accommodate the ride's layout. Nickelodeon Central was also replaced by Planet Snoopy, introducing the Peanuts characters to the park. For 2011, the park saw general cosmetic improvements. Vortex received a new red and white color scheme, new picnic shelters were constructed in the Plaza Pavilion area, Thunder Road and Hurler had portions of their tracks reconstructed, and new seat walls, newly planted shade trees, and additional greenery was planted all around the park. In 2012, WindSeeker, a 301-foot tall swinging flat ride, opened in a filled portion of the main lagoon near Nighthawk. The park also continued to add more shade structures and replaced asphalt pathways with brick pavers throughout the park. On August 26, 2013, Cedar Fair announced a $50 million investment plan to expand Carowinds over three years starting in 2014. The expansion included a $30 million roller coaster, a $2.5 million water slide, a $7 million food complex, and $4 million to improve the park's ticket booths and front areas. The same year, the park introduced Dinosaurs Alive!, a 5-acre walkthrough attraction.
In 2015, Fury 325, the fifth-tallest roller coaster in the world, opened as another component of the park's previously announced "top-to-bottom" expansion program. A new front entrance replaced the original North Gate entrance of the park, the parking toll booths were replaced and expanded, and the parking lot was re-configured to accommodate the new entry plaza. Thunder Road is closed and demolished to make way for future development. In 2016, Boomerang Bay was re-themed and expanded into Carolina Harbor, removing the Australian theme. The expansion included a new six-slide complex, a new wave pool located on land formerly home to Thunder Road, and several new splash areas for kids. The original wave pool is demolished. For the 2017 season, the expansion of the County Fair area saw the addition of four new rides: Electro-Spin (a Mondial top scan), Zephyr (Zierer Wave Swinger), Rock N Roller (Mack Rides Music Express), and Do-Si-Do (HUSS Troika). Carolina Cobra was re-themed and renamed "The Flying Cobras", with a new blue and white color scheme. The park also announced that the Wings restaurant would be expanded. WinterFest, a Christmas event in November and December that previously operated in 2005, was also reintroduced.
In 2018, Planet Snoopy was expanded and converted into Camp Snoopy with the addition of six new children's attractions. The following year, Copperhead Strike, a double-launched roller coaster manufactured by Mack Rides, was opened in the all-new seven-acre Blue Ridge Junction area of the park and became the park's 14th roller coaster. Blue Ridge Junction was constructed in the area formerly occupied by WhiteWater Falls, Sand Dune Lagoon and Thunder Road's former station. A 130-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Carowinds' first on-site hotel, opened near the park's toll booths. Blue Ridge Country Kitchen opens in Blue Ridge Junction.
Carowinds did not open for normal operation during the 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The park hosted a new holiday event, however, called "Taste of the Season" from November 21 – December 20, 2020. The event featured food, live shows, and other holiday activities throughout the park, as well as a select number of amusement rides. The park returned to normal operation in May 2021. In 2021, Boogie Board Racer, the longest mat racing slide in the Southeast, opened in Carolina Harbor. Retirement of the Rip Roarin' Rapids ride was also announced, along with the closure of the Dinosaurs Alive! attraction, to prepare for future development.
In May 2022, blueprints were leaked revealing an overhaul to the Crossroads area of the park, including the removal of the Action Theater and Yo-Yo attractions as well as the addition of four new flat rides. In July 2022, Carowinds confirmed the closures of Plants vs. Zombies 3Z Arena, Yo-Yo, and Southern Star attractions. Air Racers, Air Walker, Gear Spin, Gyro Force, as well as Hover and Dodge were announced as their replacements for the 2023 season. Beginning on January 1, 2023, Carowinds will be opened year round.
Themed areas and attractions
|Afterburn||1999||Bolliger & Mabillard||inverted roller coaster||The ride features six inversions. Formerly known as Top Gun: The Jet Coaster (1999–2007).|
|Boo Blasters on Boo Hill||2010||Sally Corporation||Dark Ride||An interactive dark ride where guests shoot at targets to collect points. The building was originally a theater that housed a variety of shows. It was previously known as Scooby-Doo's Haunted Mansion from (2001 to 2009).|
|Dodg'ems||1979||Majestic Rides||Bumper Cars||A classic bumper cars attraction. Formerly known as Autodrome (1979–1981), PT Bumper's Dodgem (1982–?).|
|WindSeeker||2012||Mondial||Windseeker||A 301-foot (92 m) tower swinger ride that spins to music and a light show. It was the tallest ride ever built at Carowinds until the opening of Fury 325 in 2015. It is turned into a Christmas tree of lights during the holidays.|
Blue Ridge Junction
|Copperhead Strike||2019||Mack Rides||Multi Launched Coaster||The first double-launch coaster in the Carolinas, with five inversions. It is located within a new themed 7-acre area as part of the park's largest investment in its history.|
|Mountain Gliders||2005||Bisch-Rocco||Flying Scooters||A Flying Scooters ride where the suspended passenger tubs would spin around a vertical axis. It previously was located in Planet Snoopy as Woodstock Gliders, and Danny Phantom's Phantom Flyers when the area was known as Nickelodeon Central. It was in storage during 2018 for Camp Snoopy expansion; in late 2018, the park announced the return of these as Mountain Gliders. They were originally built in 1940 for the Coney Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati, OH, before being moved to Kings Island (as Flying Scooters and Flying Eagles) where they operated from 1972 to 2004.|
|Beagle Scout Acres||2018||Play Set||A children's play area featuring multiple interactive elements spanning 8,000 square feet (740 m2). It opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Camp Bus||2018||Zamperla||Crazy Bus||A bus-themed mini flying carpet ride featuring Peanuts characters. It opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Charlie Brown's Wind Up||1973||Zamperla||A miniature swing ride.||Formerly known as Top Cat's Swing Time & Backyardigans Swing-a-long.|
|Flying Ace Balloon Race||1987||Zamperla||Samba Balloon||A flying balloon ride. Formerly known as Boo Boo's Balloon Race, Boot's Balloon Race & Peter Potamus' Magic Flying Balloons.|
|Kite Eating Tree||2018||Zamperla||Jumpin’ Star||A mini drop tower for kids that gently drops riders 20 feet (6.1 m). It opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Peanuts Pirates||2005||Mack Rides||Sea Storm||A Seesturmbahn (Sea Storm Ride) with rotating pirate ships themed to Peanuts. It was relocated from sister park Canada's Wonderland where it was once known as The Great Whale of China. It was formerly known as Flying Dutchman's Revenge.|
|Peanuts Trailblazers||2018||Zamperla||Mini Whip||A mini whip ride that opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Pig Pen's Mud Buggies||2018||Zamperla||Jump Around||A jump around ride that opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Snoopy vs. Red Baron||1973||Chance Rides||A small plane ride themed to Snoopy. It was formerly known as Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines & Tommy's Take Off.|
|Snoopy's Junction||1973||Crown Metal Products||A miniature train ride.||It originally opened with the park in the Country Crossroads section (now Aeronautica Landing) as Shortline Railroad. In 1975, the ride was moved to a new home. This train ride was formerly known as Flintstone Express, Yogi's Jellystone Garden & Dora the Explorer's Azul Adventure.|
|Wilderness Run||1998||E&F Miler Industries||Children's Coaster||A junior-sized roller coaster ride. It was formerly known as Taxi Jam (1998–2004), Hey Arnold's Taxi Chase (2005–2009) & Lucy's Crabbie Cabbie (2009–2017).|
|Woodstock Express||1975||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||A junior wooden roller coaster.||It was formerly known as Scooby Doo, Scooby Doo's Ghoster Coaster & Fairly Odd Coaster (2005–2009).|
|Woodstock Whirlybirds||2018||Zamperla||Mini Tea Cup||A Woodstock-themed mini teacup ride that opened in 2018 as one of six new Camp Snoopy attractions.|
|Carolina Cyclone||1980||Arrow Dynamics||Looping Coaster||A steel roller coaster featuring two vertical loops and two corkscrews. It was the first roller coaster to feature four inversions.|
|Carolina Goldrusher||1973||Arrow Dynamics||A steel mine train roller coaster.||It was the first roller coaster at Carowinds and is only one of three original rides still operating. It is also the first roller coaster to cross state lines (North Carolina & South Carolina).|
|Ricochet||2002||Mack Rides||wild mouse roller coaster||has intense turns and drops.|
Included in the price of admission to Carowinds is access to the 27-acre Carolina Harbor water park. Based on a Coastal Carolinian theme, it features 15 rides and attractions. It originally opened as Ocean Island in 1982, the water park has also been known as Riptide Reef (1989–1997) WaterWorks (1997–2006), and Boomerang Bay (2007–2015). On August 27, 2015, Carowinds announced an expansion for the area that added five additional attractions and resulted in the name changing to Carolina Harbor.
|Scrambler||1973||Eli Bridge||Scrambler||It was originally named Kaleidoscope.|
|SlingShot||2015||Funtime||Reverse Bungee||A reverse bungee ride that catapults riders nearly 300-feet into the air at speeds up to 62 miles per hour (100 km/h). SlingShot is an additional charge attraction.|
|The Grand Carousel||1979||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||An antique carousel, PTC #67||Originally located in Planet Snoopy(now known as Camp Snoopy) as Character Carousel(2010-2017).|
|Vortex||1992||Bolliger & Mabillard||stand-up roller coaster.||It was the South's first stand-up roller coaster.|
|Carolina Skytower||1973||Intamin||Gyro Tower||A 262-foot (80 m) tall Gyro tower that gives guests a view of Carowinds and Charlotte. It was originally sponsored by and branded as the Eastern Airlines Skytower. Known as the North Pole during Winterfest.|
|Intimidator||2010||Bolliger & Mabillard||Hyper coaster||A steel hypercoaster inspired by stock car racing driver Dale Earnhardt. The 232-foot-tall (71 m) roller coaster travels up to 75 mph (121 km/h).|
|Kiddy Hawk||2003||Vekoma||Suspended Family Coaster||A 49-foot-tall (15 m), 1,122-foot-long (342 m) coaster. It opened as Rugrats Runaway Reptar (2003–2009) with yellow track and green supports, then operated as Flying Ace Aerial Chase (2010–2017) with yellow track and orange supports. For its 15th anniversary in 2018, the coaster was renamed, painted blue with beige supports, and themed to the Wright Brothers' first flight trials at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.|
|Nighthawk||2004||Vekoma||Flying Dutchman coaster||The coaster operated as Stealth at California's Great America before being installed at Carowinds. When moved to Carowinds, it was known as Borg Assimilator (2004–2007) and was themed after the Borg from the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation. The theming was removed when Cedar Fair acquired the park, and the ride was renamed Nighthawk.|
|RipCord||1995||Skycoaster, Inc.||skycoaster||formerly known as Skycoaster and Xtreme SkyFlyer. This is an upcharge attraction, where guests pay an additional fee to ride. It was originally located on the site where Fury 325 was built, but was later relocated to an area near the Kiddy Hawk roller coaster.|
|Do-Si-Do||2017||HUSS||Troika||sends guests flying through the air and gliding up, down and around as three giant arms rotate riders in different directions – all while speed and elevation increase. It opened as part of the new County Fair area in 2017.|
|Electro Spin||2017||Mondial||Top Scan||sends riders through a freely rotating orbit through the air on its floorless gondolas. It opened as part of the new County Fair area in 2017.|
|Rock 'N' Roller||2017||Mack Rides||Musik Express||that plays rock and roll as guests spin around and around. It opened as part of the new County Fair area in 2017.|
|The Flying Cobras||2009||Vekoma||Boomerang model||The train is pulled up the lift hill backward and then released down the hill forward into a cobra roll and vertical loop before repeating the journey in reverse. It was relocated from Geauga Lake where it was known as Mind Eraser (1996–2003) & Head Spin (2003–2007). Formerly known as Carolina Cobra (2009–2016).|
|Zephyr||2017||Zierer||swing ride||suspends guests as the ride rotates in a circular, wavelike motion. It opened as part of the new County Fair area in 2017.|
|Drop Tower||1996||Intamin||Giant Drop 4||A drop tower ride with a height of 160 feet (49 m) and a drop of 100 ft (30 m). It was originally named Drop Zone: Stunt Tower (1996–2007).|
|Fury 325||2015||Bolliger & Mabillard||Hyper Coaster||A 325-foot (99 m) giga coaster that is the tallest in the world to use a traditional chain lift. It reaches a maximum speed of up to 95 mph (153 km/h), making it tied for the sixth fastest in the world alongside Steel Dragon 2000.|
|Hurler||1994||International Coasters, Inc||wooden triple out and back roller coaster||Originally themed to Wayne's World when the park was owned by Paramount.|
|Scream Weaver||1979||Anton Schwarzkopf||Schwarzkopf Enterprise||It was originally located in the original County Fair area(now known as Aeronautica Landing), where it was known as Meteorite.|
Carowinds re-introduced WinterFest for the 2017 season. This seasonal holiday event features seasonal holiday decorations, tree lighting, Christmas carolers, homemade crafts, a themed parade, and select rides. The park previously had Winterfest in 1983 when owned by Taft Attractions and again in 2005 when owned by Paramount.
In September 2000 the park introduced SCarowinds. It is an annual Halloween attraction and is presented on select nights in September and October, as well as the first weekend in November. The experience includes numerous haunted attractions and incorporates most of the existing park rides into a nightmarish experience.
The Paladium is an outdoor amphitheater located at Carowinds. It opened in 1975 and was the Charlotte area's premier outdoor concert venue until the opening of Blockbuster Pavilion, now PNC Music Pavilion, in 1991. It lost most of its major acts to the Uptown Amphitheatre at the NC Music Factory (now the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre at AvidxChange Music Factory) when it opened in 2009, and now hosts mostly Christian bands. Admission to the Paladium is separate from admission to Carowinds.
Jimmy Buffett performed at the Pladium in July 1976 in the early days of his career. In 1980, the Paladium hosted Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In 1992, Chapel Hill native James Taylor was there. Bon Jovi played to a sold-out crowd at the Paladium in 1993 during a stop on their I'll Sleep When I'm Dead Tour. It had Virginia's Dave Matthews Band in '93, UK's Depeche Mode in '94, Athens GA's B-52's in '94, Johnny Cash in '95, Billy Ray Cyrus in '95, Blues Traveler in '96, UK's Duran Duran in 2000, Weird Al Yankovic in '00, Atlanta Christian rapper Lecrae in 2014 (for Rock the Park), and Skillet in 2015.
Fast Lane is a limited-access line queue system offered for an additional charge at Cedar Fair amusement parks. Visitors can purchase a wristband that allows them to bypass standard lines in favor of shorter ones at many of the parks' most popular attractions.
Carowinds Festival of Music
The annual Carowinds Festival of Music allows music students to perform in public, receiving comments and ratings from nationally recognized adjudicators. Bands, choirs, show choirs, and orchestras can all play for ratings. Plaques and ribbons are awarded for performances that receive ratings of superior and excellent.
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