Published: September 28, 2008 at 12:21 PM
From a local non-theme park background perspective...
The Hard Rock Park was a good "start" of a theme park. Where (I think) management and marketing went wrong, though...
1. They didn't market at ALL in Myrtle Beach's "drive-in" markets. Folks who visit Myrtle Beach come from Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, SC, Augusta and Savannah, Ga., Charlotte, Fayatteville, Raleigh and Greensboro, NC, plus a LARGE contingent of folks from West Verginia and western Pennsylvania. There was no marketing of the park in these markets, until it was too late into the travel season. Knowing the Myrtle Beach tourism market better would've helped.
2. They snubbed the local community far too much; not having a local discount and cutting the hours of local kids working there BEFORE cutting international kids was horrible p.r. Having a "sneak preview" weekend where locals could see the unfinished park (with MANY un-rideable rides) for "only" $40 in late April did nothing to convince locals that the park was worth $40 admission - let ALONE the $50 ticket the HRP was hell-bent on charging.
3. Which leads us to the price-tag; $50 per person per-day was WAY too much for a theme park without a larger compliment of rides and attractions; and I'm not just talking about rollercoasters, either. I could SEE $50 per person per day if each day there was a major concert act performing in the venue each day, too. That IS, after all part of the "theme" of the "theme park," right? Which leads me to entertainment...
4. There weren't enough big-name acts brought into the park to convince the everyday tourist that $50 was a worthy price of admission. This year's lineup included (not counting the $250 Eagles or Moody Blues dates, because those were seperate events with higher ticket fees)... K.C. & the Sunshine Band, Sister Hazle, Kid Rock, Bowling For Soup. My memory doesn't allow me to remember ALL the "marginal" or "big name" acts they brought, but I'm not forgetting many. They missed out on hosting the VANS Warped Tour when it was available for 'em, and I'd heard through the grapevine that the HRP turned them down because they didn't think they'd be able to handle a large-scale concert like that. Excuse me? That's what your "theme" park was supposed to be all about. Rock. Music. Entertainment. Folks gladly paid $50 and more to go to concerts - TENS of thousands attended the Warped Tour in Charlotte. The HRP never once (that I can recall) had a "tens of thousands" day this summer, though they "projected" 20,000 per day capabilities.
The park itself, isn't all that bad, really. There are enough rides for kids and teens, and it could stand to add another marquee coaster or two (another $20-40 million for such rides would TRULY upgrade the place), but all-in-all, the rides were good, and the shows were, too. But the HRP kept reminding us they were't a "ride" park, but a "theme" park, and that being the case, there wasn't enough "rock" in the Hard "Rock" Park to live up to their "theme."
I hope they bounce back and find the infusion of cash they need to bring this park up-to-snuff; they have a good product that needs to be just a "little" better, I think; their marketing COMPLETELY let them down, though, and their management should listen more to those who know better than they do in matters like 'what works in Myrtle Beach,' 'where Myrtle Beach visitors come from,' 'what ticket fees work and what fees don't,' and most importantly, listen to your theme park veterans on-staff. Many who knew this park's shortcomings all along are no longer with you, but they were sounding the alarms early on, and most of them were ignored or pushed out of the way.
Best of luck!