Camper seriously injured in zipline fall at Camp Thunderbird
Plus: Center City Partners CEO on uptown's challenges; Charlotte's link to the term 'air conditioning'; White-pipe-related construction follow-up; Arena deal approved; Cheapest flights from CLT
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12-year-old girl hospitalized, but YMCA provides few details; parents were alerted to the incident last week
FILE PHOTO: A girl glides down the zipline at Camp Thunderbird in this Ledger file photo taken in 2016. The popular daytime and sleep-away summer camp on the shores of Lake Wylie just south of Charlotte hosts hundreds of campers per week.
by Cristina Bolling and Tony Mecia
A camper at YMCA Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie was seriously injured last week after a fall from the camp’s zipline structure, according to emails obtained by The Ledger from a parent whose child is attending camp there.
The camp hasn’t given details on the fall but said that the camper was rushed to the hospital and that the incident is under review. In a statement given to The Ledger late Tuesday night, officials from the YMCA of Greater Charlotte said all ropes courses in the YMCA system are now closed.
The camp is on Lake Wylie, just across the Buster Boyd Bridge that connects Charlotte to York County. Camp Thunderbird hosts hundreds of young campers per week in day sessions and weeklong sleep-away camps, with activities including archery, canoeing and swimming. The camp’s website says the zipline is 300 feet long and “departs from 40’ high and uses a simple gravity brake to bring riders to a gradual stop at the low point of the cable.”
In the first email parents received, dated June 7, camp executive director Kimberly Conroy wrote:
Today, one of our campers experienced a fall from our zip line structure at YMCA Camp Thunderbird. After receiving responsive medical care from YMCA and onsite Atrium Health staff, the camper was immediately taken to the hospital for further evaluation and care.
Out of respect for the camper and the camper’s family, we are unable to share additional details at this time. We are providing counseling support to any campers and staff who witnessed the incident. Parents of the campers who witnessed the incident are being notified.
Please keep the camper and their family in your prayers as our entire Y prays for them as well.
A second email to parents of campers and staff followed last Thursday from Conroy and Andy Belich, resident camp director. It said:
I want to thank you for your expressions of care and concern for our camper who experienced a fall on Tuesday. As prayers for our fellow camper continue, our staff remains dedicated to providing a positive camp experience.
Neither email to parents gave information about the condition of the camper, whether the zipline remained open or details about the fall.
The Ledger reached out to officials with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and Camp Thunderbird on Tuesday and received a statement late Tuesday night that echoed information that had been provided to parents via e-mail. The statement concluded: “We ask that you join us in keeping the camper and her family in your prayers.”
The fall has not previously been reported in Charlotte media.
Camp officials told WBTV in May that they were expecting a record number of campers this summer. As of early May, the camp’s summer sessions were at 96% capacity.
Uneasy feelings: One parent with a child at the camp this session said she feels uneasy not knowing more details about what happened or how the injured camper is doing. Campers don’t have access to phones or technology to check in with their families. The parent said she hadn’t gotten a call that her child had witnessed the fall.
In June 2015, a 12-year-old girl from Wilmington died after falling from a zipline at Camp Cheerio, a YMCA camp in Alleghany County about 100 miles north of Charlotte. Reports at the time said that the harness the girl was using was connected to a pulley above by a single rope, which might have gotten tangled and melted and snapped, causing her to fall over a ravine. The girl’s autopsy showed she fell 43 feet. Camp Cheerio is run by the YMCA of High Point.
First responders mum: River Hills-Lake Wylie EMS, a volunteer ambulance service that covers the Lake Wylie area, said it could not provide information about last week’s incident because of patient confidentiality. A captain with the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department said the department responded to the incident but that he was not authorized to discuss it and could not provide an incident report. A spokesman with the York County Sheriff’s Office said he was unaware of the incident.
Cristina Bolling is managing editor of The Ledger: email@example.com
Center City chief on uptown’s challenges: retail, homelessness, street racing; and prospects for new development
It’s been a tough couple years for uptown, which was cleared out during the depths of the pandemic and has been slower to recover than other parts of town.
In a presentation and Q&A with City Council members on Monday, Charlotte Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith said he remains confident in uptown’s future. And he touched on topics including challenges with homelessness, the need for more retail and where the area’s development “center of gravity” might head next.
“Despite challenging macroeconomic headwinds and two unprecedented years, we’ve generated the foundation to have another great decade of center city growth,” Smith said.
The organization receives nearly 2/3 of its $11M annual budget from additional property taxes levied in uptown and South End and spends the money on events, advocacy and programs that boost neighborhoods and businesses.
◼️ On upcoming development: “As you look ahead, the pipeline is super strong: $4 billion worth of projects in the queue, 5.5 million square feet of new office, 5,600 new apartments — that would be a 25% increase — almost 440,000 square feet of new retail and 750 hotel rooms.”
◼️ On how many workers are back uptown: “We’re so encouraged also by Charlotte’s strong recovery of our return to office relative to our peer markets. We’ve been able to get some great data from card swipes. We’re more than 50%, where a lot of the top 10 markets are still in the 30-percents.”
◼️ On the need for more retail uptown: “We see the absolute value and need for us to continue to invest and recruit to create a more complete shopping environment. A lot of the retail that we enjoy right now is complementary to what we have, but we would like to have more destination [retail]. It has been wonderful to watch our South End bloom and move from that neighborhood retail to a true regional destination center. There are some projects that are being contemplated right now that I’d be glad to discuss with you offline that make moves in that direction. It comes down to creating the space for it, which is what I always hear from retailers. And that was part of the advantage we had in South End: We had a little bit of a blank slate.”
◼️ On concerns that employers are relocating from uptown to South End: “I have zero concern about businesses moving to a part of uptown that is enjoying most of its growth. What we have found throughout many decades of urban development in Charlotte is the center for development has moved around, that center of gravity. In the ’90s and the ’00s, it was really around Trade and Tryon. As you moved later in the ’00s, it moved to North Tryon. In the teens, it moved to South Tryon. Now, in the ’20s, the newer product is being created just across 277. The outcome of that is it’s expanding our central business district. We’re not talking about a disparate area. These are walking distance. … It is good for our market. We are able to have more product and be able to compete with other cities where these jobs could also go. …
“I have absolute confidence in the continued growth of our uptown. I understand why that could appear to be a threat in the way that has been reported. It will be interesting to see where market forces think the next center of gravity is going to be.”
◼️ On public safety concerns: “We were getting a lot of feedback from major employers of the concerns of employees about return to work in an environment that did not have – this was months ago, before so many of the companies have recalled so many employees back. There was a perceived and real public safety concern that we needed to address. We did a number of things. On the private side, we began to reconvene the center city public safety council, which is all of our major employers and property owners and their private-sector security groups with CMPD and with our major event producers. … [CMPD] has been a great partner. … We are seeing real results that we think are making a difference.”
◼️ On reports of street racing and disorderly conduct uptown: “We’ve been really pleased with the approach that our current central division [of CMPD] has been taking that has been more assertive … to address the street racing, which is citywide, and not center city alone. There have been great sting operations – a couple that I know of that were very productive. Some of the disorderly conduct things, they were also aggressive with that and were able to apprehend some folks. … We’ve noticed an improvement. … I think during the time period of so much remote work, there was just less people in uptown. There was more grace provided for all kinds of uses for center city streets.”
◼️ On the challenge of homelessness uptown: “I don’t think that homelessness is ever solved. We have to create a comprehensive and evergreen approach that we constantly study and return to and figure out how do we do it better. So much homelessness … is a result of failures in people’s lives, or in systems. There are so many big ideas in that strategic plan. I love the commitment the city has made to some of the housing instability piece of it … I love what the county has done with this commitment to fund for five years standing up a quarterback organization to move this plan forward. We’ve got the pieces, but still there’s so much work.”
◼️On whether he is involved in conversations about the redevelopment of the Epicentre: “We are.”
The term ‘air conditioning’ has Charlotte roots
Yes, it is sweltering out there, and lots of us are spending this week inside in the comfort of air conditioning.
Did you know that the coinage of the term “air conditioning” is widely credited to a turn-of-the-century Charlotte textile-industry baron whose name is affiliated with a town in Gaston County? No? Let us enlighten you.
Local historian Tom Hanchett tells us that the origin of that term can be traced to Stuart Cramer, who came to Charlotte in the late 1880s to work for the U.S. Mint assaying gold. Then, he got into the textile business – the state’s dominant industry of the time – and designed textile mills, including Highland Park No. 3 (in what’s now NoDa and is a mixed-use development that includes Heist Brewing). It was the biggest mill in the state when it opened in 1904. “It was a big honking deal,” Hanchett said.
Cramer later had an office in Atherton Mill, on the site of what is today Savory Spice in South End. He also started tinkering with devices that would keep the heat and humidity inside the mills stable, which can be a problem with processing cotton. “If the temperature and humidity shifts, it’s like your hair: It gets all frizzy,” Hanchett said.
In a patent application from April 1906, Cramer listed one such device as a “humidifying and air conditioning apparatus” — which historians say is the first time the words “air conditioning” were used in a patent:
Now, we’re not saying Cramer invented air conditioning. “Air conditioning, like any success, had many parents,” Hanchett said. A Florida physician created what he called a “cold air machine” in 1851, and credit for modern air conditioners typically goes to Willis Carrier, who in 1903 designed a system that moderated humidity in a New York printing plant.
Cramer went on to buy a textile mill in Gaston County and build a mill village, in a town that now bears his name: Cramerton. —TM
You Ask, We Answer, They Dig
Last week, we answered a reader named David’s question about why dozens of mysterious white PVC pipes with utility markings were poking out of the grass along Ballantyne thoroughfares. The answer: preparations for road widening projects related to the Ballantyne Reimagined mixed-use development project that’s underway. We signed off the piece warning south Charlotte drivers “where you see white pipes today, you may be seeing construction crews tomorrow.”
Sure enough, not 48 hours later, David alerted us that road crews were digging along Ballantyne Commons Parkway at the entrance to Ballantyne Country Club. He wrote: “thanks for doing that — and sure enough — they are out there this morning to begin digging in front of our subdivision!!! Thanks for the follow up!!” —CB
Charlotte Hornets player charged with drug felony: Forward Montrezl Harrell is facing felony drug charges after being cited last month in Kentucky during a traffic stop. A state trooper found marijuana in Harrell’s car after he was pulled over for tailgating another vehicle. The crime is punishable by 1-5 years of incarceration with a fine of up to $10,000. When asked for comment, the Hornets declined. (Observer)
New rules for speed humps: Residents who want speed humps or stop signs in their neighborhoods will have an easier time, under new rules adopted by the City Council this week. The city will evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis instead of requiring a petition signed by 60% of nearby homeowners. (Observer)
Hornets deal approved: By a 10-1 vote, the City Council on Monday voted to approve a deal with the Charlotte Hornets that calls for the team’s lease at the Spectrum Center to run until 2045 and for the city to contribute $215M from tourism tax money for renovations and work on putting $60M into a new training facility, to be paid for by the sale of naming rights. (WBTV)
Jail safety checks missed: A state inspector found that the Mecklenburg County jail has no record of required safety checks in the hours leading up to some of the deaths of seven inmates in the last 13 months. (WFAE)
Helping affordable housing: The Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund created or preserved 1,047 housing units and raised $53M since 2019, according to a new report. Some 93% of housing units have been aimed at households earning 80% or less of the area’s median income. (Axios Charlotte)
A brewery closes: Legal Remedy Brewing Co. is closing its brewery and taproom in Rock Hill’s Riverwalk development, citing “growing pains of a new business.” It was open less than two years. The company still has a location in downtown Rock Hill. (Biz Journal)
Independent theater to open this month: A new arthouse theater is opening in the NoDa area on June 24. The nonprofit Independent Picture House will have three screens. (Axios Charlotte)
cbdMD CEO resigns: The CEO of Charlotte-based cdbMD, Marty Sumichrast, resigned with a $590K severance nearly two weeks after being sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He allegedly “engaged in a series of undisclosed and fraudulent conflict-of-interest transactions,” including insider loans and questionable investments. He has denied the accusations. The company has not named a new CEO. (Business Journal)
Egleston appointed to board: The City Council appointed outgoing council member Larken Egleston to the board of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
Hot weather overhyped?: Forecasters were expecting a high near 100 on Tuesday, but thermometers hit only 85. But forecasts call for highs near 100 the next few days. (Observer)
Cheap getaways from CLT
Back before Covid, we used to list cheap airfares from Charlotte every week. Then we stopped, when people stopped traveling. Now we’re reviving it. The prices are a lot higher now, but we’ll share the least expensive ones we find each week.
Charlotte to Orlando, $115 round-trip on Frontier (nonstop), June 23-27.
Charlotte to Boston, $166 round-trip on JetBlue (nonstop), July 23-26.
Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale, $144 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), Aug. 18-22.
Charlotte to Philadelphia, $137 round-trip on Frontier (nonstop), Sept. 15-19.
Charlotte to Los Angeles, $274 round-trip on United (one-stop), various dates September-November.
Charlotte to Athens, Greece, $521 round-trip on United (one-stop), Oct. 17-26.
Charlotte to Stockholm, Sweden, $538 round-trip on Lufthansa (one-stop), Nov. 13-22.
Source: Google Flights. Fares retrieved Wednesday morning. They might have changed by the time you read this.
Programming note: Ledger editor Tony Mecia appears as a guest on 90.7 WFAE at 6:40 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. on Thursdays for a discussion of the week’s local business news in the station’s “BizWorthy” segment. Audio and transcripts are also available online.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project