Published: November 3, 2008 at 7:20 PM
Derek, you pretty much described exactly what any idiot with a working copy of Rollercoaster Tycoon would have prescribed for Hard Rock Park.
And it's all absolutely, 100 percent accurate.
The most damning thing for HRP was their complete and utter inability to adapt when what they had wasn't working. The park opened with a 50 dollar base ticket. No discounts for anyone were apparent. No kid ticket. No senior ticket. No military ticket.
And surprise! No people in the park.
The lack of crowds were there on DAY ONE. That should have set off a warning light. The crowds weren't there throughout the Sound Check period. When the park "officially" opened, there still weren't any crowds. The Eagles/Moody Blues concerts may have boosted attendance, but it was a one day affair only. I have pictures of the Led Zeppelin preshow room with only four people in it. On a Saturday in June. And it was around 11:30.
If the warning light went off on day one, the "OMG This is NOT working" klaxons should have been blaring by then.
There was a Carolina discount program put into effect (either the month of June or July, I forget), but their marketing budget must have already been absorbed. We didn't hear much about it in Columbia (a mere 2 and a half hours away). They did eventually introduce a child ticket, but it was too little too late. They wasted valuable marketing time introducing the pointless "if you're not having fun in the first half hour, you get your money bacK" promotion. It didn't work.
The only way to get people in the park was to lower the gate price. Simple stupid math. It's better to have 1000 people in the park who paid $30 to get in than it is to have 500 people in the park who paid $50 to get in. Plus, the 1000 people have an extra $20 they can spend in the park on the (overpriced) food and beverages. Oh, you'll also be able to keep some of that money in the registers if you have the foresight to send people home when the crowd isn't there. Wandering the park on any given day, you could easily count at least 20 to 30 employees who really had nothing to do. Send them home for the day. You just saved a LOT of money. Keep some of them on call, but don't pay them to stand around.
But this is all Monday morning quarterbacking. We'll never know the answer, because it never happened.
I met a few of the upper-level guys at HRP. They all seemed like really great guys who had really great visions for the park (and, I sincerely hope none of them were the person who sent that email to Robert earlier this year). But there were basic problems with the park that they either couldn't or wouldn't address. And I hate that. I wanted these guys to succeed. I wanted this park to succeed. But for everything three things they got right, they made a fundamental error somewhere else.
I was in the park on opening day and I loved it. Even on my eighth visit (on closing day, not that I knew it at the time), I loved the park. I'd love to have it back. But it doesn't look like this is in the cards.